Major Apps Designed to Data Harvest Apple iOS Users

Is there a mole in your iPhone?

Are iPhone apps stealing data off your smartphone?
In a general sense it looks like the answer is yes, even if you as an individual are unaffected. A series of studies has shown that it looks like the market as a whole has not been immune to this problem but it is running rampart and is lead by some of the leading app developers.

While to some it might seem that harvesting data such as contacts is a minor issue consider that may use their smartphones for both work and personal use and there could be a good deal of proprietary information on the phone.

While the current list of offenders comes from the world of corporate app developers the next generation destined to exploit this issue will no doubt be hackers, something that could pose a major issue to all concerned.

A study by VentureBeat comes after a developer called Path was caught in the act harvesting names, numbers and e-mail addresses and storing that information on its servers. Venture Beat found that this is just the tip of the iceberg and that it is very likely that an iPhone user has one or more of the apps involved.

VentureBeat used a program called mitmproxy that is a traffic monitoring utility to observe data traffic and found that a host of applications were uploading personal data from the iPhones, in some cases unencrypted.

A list of some of the players is a who’s who of apps, much over shadowing the much smaller and less popular Path. Included in this list is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare, Foodspotting, Yelp, and Gowalla. They do not all do exactly the same thing but it is an interesting read over at the VentureBeat site.

At the same time it appears that Google has developed work around for safeguards in Apple’s Safari browser that enable Google to place tracking cookies that circumvent Apple’s default privacy settings. The workaround affected not just iPhones but Mac computers, iPads, and iPod Touch.

Google has said that it has disabled the code that enabled the actions and said that it was unintentional. However a complaint has been filed against the company with the FTC.

Apps for the iOS platform from Apple are in violation of Apple’s guidelines, which prohibits the app from sending information about a user without their permission. The company said that it is working to tighten this up in the future, according to Enterprise Mobility Today.

However it is not just iOS apps that are an issue here. The Federal Trade Commission has just issued a warning that smartphone apps can invade a child’s privacy and advocates are calling for greater safeguards. I wonder if this market segment, largely left to its own devices will start to see the advent of more, and increasingly tougher regulations due to the actions of a few developers.

AT&T Brings Wi-Fi to Pebble Beach Golf Tourney

Since they are the title sponsor it’s perhaps no surprise that AT&T is making Wi-Fi available to spectators (patrons?) at this weekend’s PGA Tour stop on the Monterey Peninsula, the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. What’s interesting is that while smartphones and tablets are becoming an integral part of what fans bring to other sporting events, for golf encouraging mobile-device use is a longtime taboo, given the possibility of a cellphone ring interrupting a player’s backswing.

According to the AT&T press release the company has a variety of mobile-device plans for tournament attendees, including free Wi-Fi in select areas around the courses for AT&T customers, as well as a text-message contest and a “digital clubhouse” on the Pebble Beach course where fans can watch the action while taking in some AT&T demos in between the action.

The press release also says there will be a policy to make folks put their devices on silent or vibrate mode, but anyone who’s been on a plane or at a conference knows how well that works. At the AT&T where alcohol will be sold and there will be “hospitality” tents you can bet that the attention span will be even lower. We won’t be able to make it down to Monterey this weekend, but would love to hear any field reports about how well the “use your cell phone for data but keep it quiet” plan works. Especially around El Tigre, who is known to take umbrage at such offenses.

Pac-12 Looks to Build ‘Digital Network’ for Social-Media Centric Sports Future

The Pac-12 conference, one year into its new broadcasting deal is now looking to expand its presence in other areas aside from broadcast television, a move that will encompass streaming media and other technologies broadcast to smartphones, tablets and other devices, mobile and immobile.

To spearhead the program the conference‘s wholly owned subsidiary Pac-12 Enterprises has hired David Aufhauser as vice president and general manager of digital media. He has been in various positions in the sports and social media market for almost two decades with his most recent position being Vice President, Media at Say Media where he managed the global ad network. Prior to that he led business development at Yahoo Sports and has a variety of positions at Citizen Sports, Evite and Netscape.

The job will entail all aspects of the digital media properties of the Pac-12 as well as the creation and management of the Pac-12 Digital Network. The Digital Network will be a unified web site that will provide world wide access to mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets as well as computers and even television for a wide range of sports activities that the Pac-12 is involved in.

The group will handle hundreds of sporting events and provide original programming at all 12 major campuses. This will include live streaming, mobile technology and social TV capabilities, the world. The network is expected to be launched in late summer 2012.

Last year the conference entered into a major upgrade on its broadcasting presence by working with major cable companies to create six regional cable networks as well as signing new national deals with FOX Sports and ESPN. The Digital Network is expected to work with the television networks to provide a more unified presence for the league. The new effort will also handle all sponsorship, licensing and event management for the Pac-12.

His hiring is just the latest in a string of newly enlisted personnel, all seemingly with wide experience in both sports and an array of various media. Last August the conference hired Gary Stevenson as the head of the Enterprise group. Stevenson has more than 30 years in a variety of sports and broadcasting experience including working with the NBA, the PGA Tour and owning his own sports consulting firm OnSports.

The Pac-12 Enterprise has also hired Bill Cella as its chief revenue officer. Cella has experience in sales and marketing and will design and implement long term strategies and oversee the management of all revenue generation for Pac-12 Enterprises.

Expect this to be the tip of the iceberg and a move that is carefully watched by both rival conferences and the NCAA governing body. No school is going to let additional revenue slip through its fingers and we will probably see a number quickly emulate the Pac-12.

The NCAA on the other hand may want a bigger piece of the pie. When Major League Baseball teams started to move onto the Internet MLB itself was a bit slow to follow. When it did it moved everything under its own umbrella, and no doubt gets a larger cut for its effort.

PlayUp Signs Exclusive Deal with Fordham Athletics

In what is expected to be the first of a series of school-exclusive deals, fan-based social network app provider PlayUp is partnering with Fordham Athletics to be the exclusive “fan engagement partner” for the sports teams at the New York-based Fordham University.

Fordham said the PlayUp app, which gives sports fans the ability to track teams, scores and to converse with other fans in either small or large, or private or public groups, is a good fit for schools like Fordham who have interested alumni who might not be able to view games in person. From the press release announcing the deal:

“PlayUp is a very unique service that allows fans who cannot attend Fordham games in person to actively chat on their mobile device while following the action,” said Julio Diaz, Associate Athletic Director/Marketing and Promotions, Fordham Athletics.

According to PlayUp, the company will promote its app live at four upcoming Fordham men’s basketball games, and will be featured in television ads shown during the game broadcasts. PlayUP said it will also have in-game contests and promotions, part of a strategic move to make PlayUp the app fans check in with first when they are at a live sporting event. Here’s the PlayUp quote from the presser:

“We are very pleased to be Fordham Athletics’ Official Fan Engagement Partner,” said David Brody, PlayUp U.S. Head of Marketing. “This partnership will help Fordham fans, friends, family and alumni alike, connect worldwide over Fordham Athletics. Even if they’re hundreds or thousands of miles away, they can hangout together in the PlayUp app. Our app breaks down geographical barriers and allows real interaction between fans all over the globe.”

MSR will track PlayUp (which just launched a beta version of a website component) and its competitors in the fan-conversation market closely. If you are a PlayUp user, give us a holler in the comments below and tell us what you think of the service.

AT&T Provides Assists to Mobile Sports App Developers

Joe Tafoya giving a demo at the AT&T Developer Summit. Photo courtesy of Unsocial.

LAS VEGAS — CES 2012 — How can a big, established company like AT&T put itself at the center of mobile apps innovation? By giving smaller companies hooks into the cellular giant’s extensive wireless network and back-end operations, making it easier for developers to reach a wider audience and earn money faster.

For entrepreneurs looking to break into the exploding world of mobile sports application development, having AT&T as a BFF is a no-brainer, according to Joe Tafoya, a former NFL player who is now heading up a mobile content company called Viva! Vision Inc. Viva’s still-in-development app for Dallas Mavericks star Jason Terry was highlighted on stage at the AT&T Developer Summit here Monday, with Tafoya giving a quick demo of the forthcoming app’s ability to give fans lots of content centered around Terry, including training videos that will be available for purchase.

Where AT&T comes in is via links to the cellular giant’s network and payment systems, which will allow people to purchase items from the Jason Terry app by simply clicking and having the charges appear on their monthly cellular bill. In the not too distant past, having access to services embedded deeply into the cellular infrastructure was something small developers could only dream of. Now, up-and-coming players like Viva! Vision can theoretically gain easy links to AT&T’s millions of wireless customers as part of a big push by Ma Bell to help find and partner with the people who are truly innovating on the app development front.

“We looked at a lot of payment systems but being able to use AT&T was a no-brainer,” said Tafoya in a quick interview following the AT&T presentation, citing both the ability to have a quick, easy payment system in the app as well as access to AT&T’s millions of cellular customers.

And while sports and gaming are always at the top of the list of popular mobile apps, AT&T is of course extending its new programs to developers of all stripes, from in-car applications to enterprise apps to apps that let you compile grocery lists. Part of the company’s push Monday included new programs to make using its APIs (application programming interfaces) easier for developers, as well as programs to help developers get their apps noticed by more consumers and companies.

“Our goal is to make it easier for [developers] to navigate the mobile ecosystem,” said Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T Mobility, during the Summit’s keynote address. For some developers like Viva! Vision’s Tafoya, that’s a goal that’s already happening.

Friday Grab Bag: Google vs. Amazon in Tablet Wars?

Pending Google Tablet to rival Kindle Fire?

Multiple reports are claiming that the long pending tablet from Google will be targeted more at the Kindle Fire market than the iPad market. While there is some overlap in the two markets currently I see them as serving different groups of primary users, although that will change.

The Google Tablet is expected to be in the 7-inch form factor and will have a $200 price tag upon its expected delivery in late March or early April. The web company is expected to first create a web site that is designed to specifically cater to expected customers of its Android-powered tablet and will make apps. Movies, books and music will be made available at that site.

This will make an interesting battle as Google’s deep pockets and ubiquity of its browser will enable it to reach a wide audience via advertising on its pages as well as in other media. A similar thrust by Barnes & Noble for its Nook has cost that company dearly but the impact for Google should be significantly less due to its much greater resources.

Twice as many Americans own 4 TVs as opposed to 1
The latest State of the Media: Consumer Usage Report from Nielsen has a number of interesting facts across the broad markets that it surveyed, with the one quoted above being just one of them.

The number of people age 13 and older that own a mobile phone is fast approaching the number of people that own at least one television- 232 million to 290 million. Satellite did much better than I had expected when compared to digital cable- 95 million compared to 145 million.

The full survey covers usage and trends across TV, mobile, online and social media and can be downloaded from the company’s site.

TiVo Delivers Android version of its App

TiVo has had an app for customers using products powered by the Apple iOS and has now greatly expanded its audience with the delivery of the app for the vast Android space as well, according to a piece in Cnet

The free app is designed for use with both smartphones and tablets and enables a user to participate in social media such as Facebook and Twitter while viewing programs that are currently playing from a TiVo box.

TiVo has also announced that it has settled pending patent litigation with AT&T. In the deal AT&T has agreed to a mutual patent licensing agreement and will be making payments to TiVo that include an initial payment of $51 million and reoccurring payments that will run until June, 2018.

Apple files for patents that cover photos and fitness.
Patently Apple has reported that Apple has won patents for Photo Booth and a sports related one that covers a fitness center app. The site has a great deal of information of the Fitness Center App and said that it covers a range of issue facing exercisers including motivation and how to use equipment.

Apple also appears to have a range of additional related patent claims pending that could help it gain a strong presence in this market, or a future in additional litigation as others imitate its direction. I wonder how all of the makers of fitness apps in the iTune store feel about this?

Additionally Apple has been awarded a patent for Photo Booth so that users of Apple devices, initially just the iPad but expected to cover both other iOS devices’ as well as OS X products to manipulate images that have been taken with the devices’ built-in camera.

Other Apple News

Apple has also filed for a pair of patents that indicate that it is seeking to develop a hydrogen fueled battery that it is speculated could power its devices for weeks between recharges. I would be happy to make it through the day right now.

According to the latest from iLounge new code found in the iOS 5.1 release points to a future that has devices powered by quad-core chips. The site said that it believes that products with quad-core chips could be delivered as early as March of this year.