Android flashlight app developer settles FTC charges of sharing geolocation data

The Brightest Flashlight Free app shared location information even though it told users they could turn sharing off, the agency alleges

The developer of a popular flashlight app for Android devices has agreed to settle U.S. Federal Trade Commission charges that it shared users' geolocation information with advertising networks and other organizations without permission.

The settlement between the FTC and Goldenshores Technologies, maker of the Brightest Flashlight Free app, prohibits the company from misrepresenting how consumers' information is collected and shared and how much control consumers have over the way their information is used, the agency said Thursday.

The settlement also requires the app developer to provide a disclosure that informs users when and how their geolocation information is being collected, used and shared, and it requires the company to get customer consent before doing so, the FTC said in a press release.

The FTC, in a complaint made public Wednesday, alleged that the company's privacy policy failed to disclose that the app transmitted users' precise location and unique device identifier to third parties, including advertising networks.

The company deceived consumers by presenting them with an option to not share their information, even though it was shared automatically, the FTC alleged.

"When consumers are given a real, informed choice, they can decide for themselves whether the benefit of a service is worth the information they must share to use it," Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. "But this flashlight app left them in the dark about how their information was going to be used."

The app presented users with an end-using license agreement that allowed them to accept or refuse the terms of the agreement, including information on data collection, the FTC said. But before a consumer had a chance to accept those terms, the app already started collecting and sending information to third parties, the agency said.

Company representatives didn't immediately respond to an email message seeking comment on the settlement.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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