Apple U-turns on Clueful app approval (what don’t they want us to know about iOS privacy?)

u-turn
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Apple has pulled security software vendor Bitdefender’s Clueful app from the app store.

Clueful is an app that examines other applications on your phone or iPad and tells you what they’re doing: accessing your address book, using location services such as GPS, encrypting stored data, connecting to your social accounts, and more.

Clueful app capabilitiesIt only worked with free apps, and it didn’t show you data on all applications, just about 60,000 of the most popular. Still, it was a very useful way for Apple device owners to get some insight into what their apps were doing.

But not anymore.

As Bitdefender announced on its website, Apple removed the app after previously approving it:

Apple informed Bitdefender’s product development team of the removal — for reasons we are studying — after it was approved under the same rules. iPhone owners who already use Clueful privacy may continue to do so.

Bitdefender is continuing to work on Clueful and plans to resubmit the app to Apple in an attempt to get back in the Cupertino company’s good graces.

While the company cannot speak about the reasons for the removal, and Apple never almost never comments on app store rejections, perhaps we can find a clue in what Bitdefender has already learned from Clueful. Of apps the company has studied:

  • 42.5 percent do not encrypt users’ personal data, even when sending it over public Wi-Fi
  • 41.4 percent can track a user’s location
  • almost one in five of the apps analyzed can access your entire Address Book
  • some apps send your information to the cloud without encrypting it.

Tracking location and accessing the address book are all fine and well, if the user has authorized it. But storing and sending private data unencrypted is not good news at all.

And it’s not something that improves Apple’s or iOS’ reputation as safe, secure, and friendly … nor the company’s desired contrast with the wild, wild, west of Android apps. Hopefully those considerations were not part of the app store approval — or un-approval, in this case — decision process.

Bitdefender could still use a private API or unauthorized method. But by continuing development the company is showing some confidence that Clueful will be re-approved when changes are made.

Bitdefender’s chief security researcher Catalin Cosoi says as much:

“While Clueful remains off the App Store, we are working hard toward understanding why our app was removed and to develop the app to improve its chances of staying there.”

For the sake of iOS users’ security and privacy, I hope the company’s successful.

Image credit: VectorARA/ShutterStock