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Apps in Samsung smartphones found to collect user data

Posted December. 05, 2011 03:15,   


Software similar to Carrier IQ of the U.S., which secretively gathers personal information in mobile phones including call records, text messages and location data, has been discovered in Samsung Galaxy smartphones as well.

Three applications and Program Monitor, which are basic programs of the Samsung Galaxy S and Galaxy S II, have been found to play functions similar to those of Carrier IQ. Samsung has sold more than 10 million units of these two smartphone models in Korea alone.

The Dong-A Ilbo and the Graduate School of Information Security at Korea University conducted a survey to find if Korean smartphones contain Carrier IQ. Through the study, domestic smartphones were found not to have Carrier IQ installed but certain smartphones included applications equipped with functions to gather personal data irrespective of the purpose of applications.

Mirror App in the Galaxy S is a simple application that displays the user`s face via a built-in camera. The app, however, was found to have been designed to allow access to more than 40 functions of the smartphone including phone number lists, calendar information, location data, SMS messages, photos and recorded content stored in the mobile device.

This means that with intent, a producer can freely delete phone numbers or modify location data, view SMS messages, and listen to recorded content. The company can also use such information for marketing. Designed to allow the user to view his or her face, the app is thus effectively granted the capacity to allow the phone maker to freely control data in the device.

Functions similar to those in the Mirror app are also available to the "setup app for data communications," which allows the user to choose whether to use the 3G mobile network or WiFi, and the "program management" app, which enables the user to manage programs in situations pertaining to operations and memory use of a smartphone.

Whether Samsung Electronics gathered user information by using these apps is uncertain. The company failed to inform users in advance that these apps can be abused to leak personal information. Mirror is an application installed in a new product, and users cannot delete it by themselves.

Kim Seung-joo, a professor at the Graduate School of Information Security of Korea University, said, "It is shocking that the manufacturer installs applications that have excessive power.”

Samsung said, "The problems were due to simple errors committed by developers."