Is an app free if it sells your information? David Hatter - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Is an app free if it sells your information?


The "app economy", which includes Facebook as well as smartphone apps, is estimated to have generated $US20 billion in revenue in 2011 by selling downloads, advertising, "virtual goods" and other products, according to estimates from Rubinson Partners, a market researcher.

Apps are required to ask people's permission to access their Facebook data.

But the way they ask plays on a fundamental human tendency - namely, that people who see frequent warnings come to disregard them.

Science has a word for this: habituation. Habituation occurs when people become accustomed to simply pressing the "yes" button when faced with an alert or warning.

"If people see a warning a lot, but then nothing bad happens in the average case, it decreases the alarm level" and people won't pay attention even when they need to, said Adrienne Porter Felt, a Ph.D. student in computer science at the University of California, Berkeley, who has studied requests for personal data by apps on smartphones. 

A case in point came just this past week, in a scandal involving an iPhone app called "Girls Around Me".

The app used publicly available information from Foursquare, a location-based social network, to enable men to locate nearby women on a map and view the personal data and photos from their Facebook profiles.

Read more about privacy and the app economy in these tech articles: 

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