Are your mobile apps spying on you?

Facebook, Twitter, and other popular mobile apps all make copies of your personal contacts -- often without telling you

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Following the Path debacle, Instragram quietly updated its photo sharing app to ask permission before uploading users' phone books -- but not before being caught in the act by The Next Web blog.

Of course, a lot of folks are pointing the finger at Apple for allowing apps to have their way with people's address books. Not surprisingly, Apple points the finger right back. Company spokeshuman Tom Neumayr released a statement a few minutes ago to AllThingsD:

Apps that collect or transmit a user's contact data without their prior permission are in violation of our guidelines. We're working to make this even better for our customers, and as we have done with location services, any app wishing to access contact data will require explicit user approval in a future software release.

Why is this a big deal? Because phone numbers are some of the most personal information available about anyone. They are a semi-permanent unique identification number that also serves as a direct way to reach you at all times. Giving someone else your number means you trust them to not abuse it, call you at 3 a.m. for no reason, or spray paint it on a restroom wall.

But can you trust these Web apps -- especially those that grab your numbers without asking -- to not abuse it? The answer is that we shouldn't have to. Maybe now, thanks to the Path debacle, we won't.

Which nosy apps tick you off, and why? Post the most egregious examples below or email me: cringe@infoworld.com.

This article, "Are your mobile apps spying on you?," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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