The creator of one of the most popular apps for Android mobile devices has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that the free app, which allows a device to be used as a flashlight, deceived consumers about how their geolocation information would be shared with advertising networks and other third parties.
Goldenshores Technologies, LLC, managed by Erik M. Geidl, is the company behind the “Brightest Flashlight Free” app, which has been downloaded tens of millions of times by users of the Android operating system.
Consumers also were presented with a false choice when they downloaded the app, according to the complaint. Upon first opening the app, they were shown the company’s End User License Agreement, which included information on data collection. At the bottom of the license agreement, consumers could click to “Accept” or “Refuse” the terms of the agreement. Even before a consumer had a chance to accept those terms, though, the application was already collecting and sending information to third parties – including location and the unique device identifier.
In addition, the complaint alleges that the company deceived consumers by presenting them with an option to not share their information, even though it was shared automatically rendering the option meaningless.
The settlement with the FTC prohibits the defendants from misrepresenting how consumers’ information is collected and shared and how much control consumers have over the way their information is used. The settlement also requires the defendants to provide a just-in-time disclosure that fully informs consumers when, how, and why their geolocation information is being collected, used and shared, and requires defendants to obtain consumers’ affirmative express consent before doing so.
The defendants also will be required to delete any personal information collected from consumers through the Brightest Flashlight app.
“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,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “But this flashlight app left them in the dark about how their information was going to be used.”