May 21, 2013
In 2012, Bitdefender released an interesting new iPhone app called Clueful. For $3.99, users were able to see how the apps on their iOS devices handled personal data. Soon after Clueful was released, Apple pulled it from the App Store. The app is now back, but in this case, it's available only for Android-based devices. This really isn't a story about Clueful. In fact, I never used the app on my iPhone, nor do I plan on using it on my Android tablet. Rather, I'd like to discuss how Bitdefender's app was treated in each mobile ecosystem and why Apple's way probably wasn't the correct one. First, a little bit more background on Clueful and the company that created it. Bitdefender is well known for a variety of anti-virus, anti-theft, and other security applications for computer, Web, and mobile use. In fact, the company's Total Security product is one of the most popular for Windows-based computers. In other words, the folks at Bitdefender know a lot about security and keeping personal data private. Clueful for iOS, for its part, worked by pulling a list of apps from a users' device, sending this information to Bitdefender servers, and then matching it with its database. From there, the user was informed what type of information was being shared by each app, and at what level of risk (low, medium, or high). According to TechCrunch, Apple never actually told Bitdefender why Clueful for iOS was pulled from the App Store. However, the company believes it was because "we revealed too much!" In the proverbial perfect world, an app such as Clueful wouldn't be necessary. After all, if Apple was doing its job, apps with a high-level of risk would never make it to the App Store in the first place. Unfortunately, that isn't always the case. There have been numerous stories over the years of rogue apps being approved by Apple, only to be pulled later over security issues. Therefore, Clueful sounds like an app that not only should have stayed in the App Store, but one that Cupertino should have heaped praise on for making the App Store experience more secure for users. Instead, Clueful is now making a home on Android, and iOS users are essentially left to wonder whether that new app they just downloaded is entirely safe. The Google Play store is often described as the Wild West for its lenient app approval process. In this case, however, Apple may be slightly at fault. I'm not saying that Apple doesn't try to do its best to protect our data. In fact, its stringent app review policies make those rogue apps few and far between. However, they do happen. Therefore, for added protection, Apple should keep apps such as Clueful around, not banish them to the land of Google. Does anyone else have a problem with this?