Apple removes hundreds of apps that collected personal data

Apple has removed hundreds of apps from its online store that were using Chinese advertising software that collects personal data in violation of its privacy policies.

The iPhone maker made the announcement a day after researchers discovered 256 apps using the software, which extracts “personally identifiable user information.” and which have had more than a million downloads.

In a statement, the tech giant said: “We’ve identified a group of apps that are using a third-party advertising SDK (software development kit), developed by Youmi, a mobile advertising provider, that… gathers private information, such as user email addresses and device identifiers, and route data to its company server.

“This is a violation of our security and privacy guidelines. The apps using Youmi’s SDK will be removed from the App Store and any new apps submitted to the App Store using this SDK will be rejected.

“We are working closely with developers to help them get updated versions of their apps that are safe for customers and in compliance with our guidelines back in the App Store quickly.”

Apple does not allow third-party applications to share data about a user without obtaining users’ permission, and it rejects apps that require users to share personal information, such as email addresses or birth dates.

Researchers at the mobile analytics firm SourceDNA said on Sunday that they had discovered hundreds of apps that extract personal information, saying it was “the first time we’ve seen iOS apps successfully bypass the app review process.”

The researchers said they found 256 apps with an estimated one million downloads that have a version of Youmi that violates user privacy.

“Most of the developers are located in China,” the researchers said in a blog post. “We believe the developers of these apps aren’t aware of this since the SDK is delivered in binary form, obfuscated, and user info is uploaded to Youmi’s server.”

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