Clueful App Lets Users Keep Track of the Apps That Track Them

Posted by · May 22, 2012 3:10 pm

Let’s face it. We are all goldmines—of data, that is. Whether it’s Apple sneaking a peek at our phone contacts, that Facebook fad publishing our personal information, or Google keeping tabs on our every move, we are a very hot commodity. However, not all of us are as fond of this popularity as others might be. As these companies and others continue to push the envelope when it comes to the information they use and, more importantly, how they use it, users are typically left in the dark until after something bad happens.

It’s with such concerns in mind that security company BitDefender has unveiled its latest app—Clueful.

“You’d be surprised how many things an app can learn about you and what you do,” BitDefender begins on the Clueful homepage. “Without you ever knowing it.”

Hardly veiling its more fear-based marketing strategy, the security firm shamelessly continues:

Clueful is the only way to really understand iOS apps, how they use your private data and treat your privacy. This one-of-a-kind product identifies intrusive applications and shows you what they do behind your back.

Initially, one can’t help but feel that BitDefender is simply capitalizing on the current privacy panic by peddling its $4 app to anyone scared enough to buy one. After all, the timing couldn’t be better. Furthermore, considering the hundreds of thousands of apps available in the iTunes App Store, it seems silly to buy an app that can currently only has the ability to analyze tens of thousands of apps.

At the same time, though, the idea itself isn’t half bad. Although Clueful’s current app testing capabilities are limited, the folks at BitDefender are still in the process of expanding that database. In fact, users can submit apps that aren’t currently covered and request that they be added to the Clueful register.

Its limited capabilities notwithstanding, Clueful can already provide a great deal of insight to users, suggests TechCrunch’s Sarah Perez, who had the following review of Clueful to offer after trying it out for herself:

I’ve got an embarrassing number of apps on my phone, but after installing and running Clueful, it still managed to surprise me. (Solitaire was accessing my address book? What?) But the news wasn’t all bad – most of my apps were behaving. Clueful nicely differentiates between apps that “can” do something (like access your address book) versus those that “could” do something (like track your location). Plus, it highlight[s] the good things apps do for you, too, like encrypt your data, for example. I’m not sure the app is worth $3.99, but if you’re at all curious about your apps, or just privacy-sensitive, this isn’t a bad tool to use.

Although I’ve yet to test out the app for myself, I’m inclined to agree—at least in part. I mean, if app developers are planning to access and use our personal information, it only seems fair that we should be able to know that it’s happening (or “could” happen). Turnabout, after all, is fair play.

Nevertheless, I do have one nagging reservation. While BitDefender clearly provides an informative service with its Clueful app, the concern that remains is the lack of proactive measures available to make such information useful. This isn’t meant to place blame on BitDefender. However, it does raise the question of what use such an app promises if it does nothing to help curb these companies’ appetites for our personal information.

It seems to me that the greatest strides can only be made when the companies that screen these apps—most notably, Apple and Google—are held accountable by the appropriate legal safeguards, ensuring that such invasive apps don’t even make the final cut. In which case there would be no market for an app like Clueful.

For more about BitDefender, the Clueful app & other app news…