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Jun 17

Terms and conditions apply

Update: Irish Times communities editor David Cochrane has pointed out that, while the main @IrishTimes twitter account does not engage with followers, many of the staff who have twitter accounts do engage. I’m happy to clarify that point.

Data protection is boring. Obscure activist groups in Austria suing Facebook over their cookie policy, or yet another Guardian powerpoint from Edward Snowden about the NSA, or yet another heavily written European Court judgement.

Then, sometimes, there’s a moment when data protection and privacy issues come to the forefront.
This morning, the Irish Times app on my phone asked for permission to update. I clicked yes, and before updating, the app told me what systems and information it needed access to.

For some reason the Irish Times wants access to Device ID and Call Information, which “allows the app to determine the phone number and device IDs, whether a call is active, and the remote number connected by a call.”

I’m not an expert, but that looks like the Irish Times wants to know my phone number, and every number I call. I uninstalled.

Why would the Irish Times need that information?

I asked that question of the Irish Times twitter account earlier today, but so far I’ve received no answer.

I probably shouldn’t be surprised by that. A quick look at the Irish Times twitter feed shows it broadcasts headlines and story links, but doesn’t engage with its readers or followers.

ITapp

4 comments

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  1. Kerrill

    Most if not all media apps look for this level of permissions – the Irish Times app permissions are less intrusive than the Indo for example.

    Newspapers are required to track the demographic of their readers (A,B1 etc..) for annual reporting. 3rd party software is needed to track this data in apps, comscore and Google analytics are examples of 3rd party software for tracking user stats. It is the 3rd party software that is requesting access to these permissions, not the newspaper itself.

    If you want a proper example of intrusive permissions just check out the permissions requested in the Facebook app!

  2. Kerrill

    This is a good article on permissions:
    http://lifehacker.com/5991099/why-does-this-android-app-need-so-many-permissions

  3. Gerard Cunningham

    That’s not really addressing my question. By knowing my phone number (or perhaps some other unique identifier, like IMEI?) and my location, they can perhaps make some educated guesses about likely ABC1 profile. But why do they need to know who I call?

    And “Facebook does it too” is not an argument is favour of anything.

  4. Ned

    I totally agree with Mr Cunningham. I had wanted to install a free word game on my android phone. It asked for permission to access among other things, “Device ID and Call information”. I may be a novice but I can smell something amiss there. Why does a simple word game that is to be played offline require access to that kind of information. Google will do very well to ban these developers and their likes from posting their stuff in the Play Store.

  1. More terms, more conditions » 200 Words

    […] version: RTE and the Irish Independent look for the same call information as the Irish Times, the Irish Examiner is the only one not to ask for call information, and RTE is the only one which […]

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