Pandora Transmits ‘Mass Quantities’ Of Personal Data

Mobile devices feed customer data to advertising companies to fuel the hunger business’s have for targeting users that have a behavioral inclination to buy a product or service.  This is a great article about the double edge sword that is “behavioral targeting.”

With a federal privacy investigation underway, a security researcher calls “Orwellian” the amount of information the mobile app shares with ad serving firms.

How much personal information does a user trade for access to a “free” smartphone application? It depends on the application, but the type of data collected can seem “Orwellian,” according to Tyler Shields, a senior researcher for application security testing firm Veracode.

“Your personal information is being transmitted to advertising agencies in mass quantities,” he said, at least based on his teardown of online music provider Pandora’s radio-streaming application for Android smartphones, which he detailed in a recent blog post.

Shields’ assessment is relevant given the news, first reported by the Wall Street Journal Tuesday, that federal prosecutors in New Jersey are investigating whether mobile application vendors are illegally retaining or sharing personal information about their customers with third-party advertising groups.

Included in that investigation is Pandora, an online music service that also makes smartphone applications. As disclosed in a recent SEC filing from Pandora, “in early 2011, we were served with a subpoena to produce documents in connection with a federal grand jury, which we believe was convened to investigate the information sharing processes of certain popular applications that run on the Apple and Android mobile platforms.”

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