Clueful was a security app by Bitdefender that uses Bitdefender’s database to inform users which apps on the App Store leak sensitive information, such as your contact list, Unique ID, or even access the battery-draining GPS functionality of your iPhone without permission. Clueful even had the ability to filter for apps already loaded on your iPhone, putting the apps with the most serious security breaches at the top. Clueful’s lists weren’t necessarily designed to tell you if an app is ‘bad’, but instead inform you of the important information often hidden within lengthy terms of service documents.
It shouldn’t surprise you that Clueful, an app which makes users aware of privacy risks in many popular apps, was banned from the App Store. Over Clueful’s analysis of 60000 iOS apps, a sampling that accounts for nearly a tenth of Apple’s most popular apps, Bitdefender found that 42.5% of the apps transmitted users personal data without encryption over public WiFi, 41.4% can track a user’s location, and almost one in five access the address book. What’s worse is some of the vulnerabilities overlap and send such information ‘home’ without encrypting it. In the worst cases, not only is your personal information carted off for corporations to analyze, but it’s not even done with security in mind. And you thought jailbreaking your iPhone was insecure…
The banning of Clueful is just another reminder of why we need a healthy alternative to Apple’s centralized and heavily controlled App Store. The banning suggests that security for customers, which includes a clear awareness of risk, isn’t Apple’s primary concern. If Apple can just remove apps which it finds unflattering, then the App Store has a bigger problem than Rovio’s (completely hypothetical) ability to watch you in your sleep.
According to Bitdefender’s press release, their staff “are working hard toward understanding why [Clueful] was removed and to develop the app to improve its chances of staying there.” We will see if Clueful does return to the App Store.
If not, how about Cydia as an alternative? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.