Screenshot 2014-04-14 at 08.38.32

“Brightest Flashlight” App Shines Light on 50 Million Users’ Locations; FTC Does Very Little

April 14, 2014 - Written By Tom Dawson

 

Mobile advertising has become something of a hot topic in recent years, but not so much because people detest ads, rather it’s more to do with the information that these ads are taking from users and using to better target ads at them. In a world of connected services that are all free to use, such as GMail, Dropbox, news sites, YouTube and more we’ve all excepted – one way or another – that ads are a necessary annoyance. However, when it comes to mobile, ads can be very intrusive indeed, and for app developers it’s a fine balance to get things right between having the right amount of ads you need to earn a little money, and too many ads that ruin the experience for users. Brightest Flashlight, from GoldenShores Technologies is definitely one app that didn’t get this right.

We all need a flashlight app, right? Well, some 50,000,000 users or so that had installed Brightest Flashlight on their device did indeed get a pretty bright flashlight, but their location was also sent to ad agencies all over the place while the app was in use. Location-targeted ads are nothing new, but the fact that people were unaware – not even told about this “feature” – is where things get a little messy. The Federal Trade Commission of course had something to say about this, but their words amount to pretty much nothing in terms of punishment or even precedent for other similar offenders. Erik Geidl, the one man show behind GoldenShores Technologies, was ordered by the FTC to delete user’s data within 10 days, and to inform the Commission of any business he starts in the next 10 years.

Having to delete user’s data is one thing, and its a good start, but there’s no financial action being taken by the FTC, because the app was in fact free to download. This obviously ignores the income that Mr Geidl will have gotten from ads, which is exactly why he was taking location data in the first place. These sort of apps should be made to declare exactly what and why they’re doing what they’re doing, which Geidl will now have to do from now on, but some sort of further action would send a message to other such app developers.