BitDefender ready to resubmit privacy app to Apple

BitDefender, which recently had its privacy watchdog app pulled from Apple's App Store, says it will resubmit the app this week and has "several options" if is rejected again.

Apple notified BitDefender's product development team last week that Clueful was removed from the App Store, reversing Apple's previous decision to sell the app. Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

On Friday, BitDefender said it was reworking the app and would run final tests over the weekend. "We will resubmit Clueful early next week," Catalin Cosoi, chief security researcher for the company, said in an email. Cosoi declined to discuss why the app was removed, saying it is under a non-disclosure agreement with Apple.

"We would obviously love to discuss the feedback we got from Apple, but we cannot," he said. BitDefender did not receive any assurances that the new app would be approved.

"If we don't get approved, we have several options, but we believe that the real value is in the app," Cosoi said. He added that the latest version would provide users with a lot more information on the data-gathering activities of installed apps.

Clueful, which cost $3.99, uses Bitdefender servers to analyze app activity. The results are then transmitted back to the iPhone user. The security vendor does not recommend removing apps, leaving it up to the user to decide.

Apple has been on the hot seat over user privacy for some time. In March, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate the use of personal data on Apple's mobile devices, as well as those running Google's Android operating system.

Reports of app developers tapping into iPhone users' personal data without permission led Apple last year to ban app makers from using the unique identifier embedded in iPhones and iPads. The identifier made it possible to track device users as they moved from one app to another. By passing that information on to advertisers, they were able to show ads with more relevance to the recipient.

Rather than boost privacy, Apple's tighter restrictions caused advertisers to find other ways to track iPhone and iPad users. Ad networks developed their own identifiers within mobile apps that collected data on location and user preferences as they moved across apps, The Wall Street Journal reported in June.

During the time, Clueful was available, BitDefender analyzed 60,000 iOS apps. The company found that about 40 percent of the apps did not encrypt users' personal data and sent it over public Wi-Fi networks. In addition, another about 40 percent of apps could track a user's location and one in five could access a person's address book.

BitDefender is not the first company to address privacy concerns on Apple devices. In April, Washington state developer Mike Tigas released a privacy-enhanced web browser on the App Store. In addition, other apps are available for securing photos and other personal information, including Secret Life, Picture Safe and PicVault.

Read more about data privacy in CSOonline's Data Privacy section.

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