Are our smartphones cheating GDPR?

Consumer champion, Which? has revealed that the smart devices we use on a daily basis could be employing underhand measures to take more of our personal details than we think.

A study conducted by the watchdog has concluded that many apps tested are technically behaving in accordance with GDPR stipulations while failing to embrace the true meaning of data protection that the laws seek to imbue.

Which? has said that some applications bundle multiple requests into a single option, giving a false impression of levels of diligence to privacy. Other programmes are designed to mask their privacy settings so that users accept advertising before they are aware of the companies pushing those messages.

We perhaps shouldn’t be surprised by now – some of the big brands are behind this cyber skulduggery.

The iOS format of Amazon’s widely-used shopping app somehow knew that the test phone being used by Which? was located in Brighton. Without having specifically asked for the user’s location, this suggests the app used the IP address to determine geophysical positioning. The online shopping giant has said that details in its “comprehensive data privacy policy” are used in accordance with consumer expectations and legal standards.

Weather services app, AccuWeather, provides a list of 18 ‘unaffiliated providers’ of advertising bodies with which it exchanges information about devices and their users. One of the pop-ups on AccuWeather’s website says that data is shared with 199 partners. The app also asked Which? testers to pay to circumnavigate targeted advertising based on the test user’s data.

In response to the findings, AccuWeather has said that a new version of its app is due for release which will provide more control over what user data is collected and why.

Long-winded T&Cs sections full of ‘legalese’ have also come under fire from the consumer watchdog website because they contravene the spirit of the GDPR which asks that customer rights be conveyed in a simple and easy-to-read format.

Which? is using its findings to add weight to calls for an inquiry into digital advertising, which is worth in excess of £10 billion in the UK – a market which is being driven by the power of ubiquitous smart devices.

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