May 21, 2013 at 7:53 PM ET
Anti-virus firm Bitdefender Tuesday launched Clueful, a free Android app that tells you how much other Android apps invade your privacy.
"Your smartphone is probably the most personal device you own, containing private messages, sensitive banking information, personal photos and other data that can leave you vulnerable if handled carelessly," Bitdefender Chief Security Strategist Catalin Cosoi said in a statement.
"Meanwhile, the world of apps is still like the Wild West — poorly regulated, chaotic and open to exploitation by unsavory characters," Cosoi said. "Clueful offers you a solid defense in an often dangerous milieu."
Cosoi may be exaggerating a bit, but it's true that Android apps are much less tightly monitored than those for Apple's iOS App Store. (A Bitdefender spokeswoman told us that an iOS version of Clueful was pulled from the App Store last summer for "reasons unexplained.")
Clueful quickly scans your phone to see which apps are installed, and then gives you an overall privacy score ranging from a low of 1 to a high of 100. I tried it on my own Android phone and got a score of 48 — only "fair."
The app doesn't actually go into the source code of each of the other apps installed on your phone. Instead, it dials up to Bitdefender's cloud service, which contains information about the permissions requested by most apps in Google's official Play Store, as well as details about many of each app's individual builds.
Clueful categorizes individual apps into high- moderate- and low-risk categories, with high scorers being those apps that "are viruses," "send your identity to strangers" and "use very intrusive ads."
I didn't have any of those on my phone, but nearly half my installed apps were classified as "moderate risk."
Four were placed in that category because they "send your private data to strangers," Clueful told me: the popular games "Angry Birds," "Angry Birds Space" and "Bad Piggies" and the network-tester Speed Test. The first three leaked my device ID; all four sent my location over the Internet.
I learned that 11 apps have the ability to read or intercept SMS messages, including Amazon, USA Today and IMDb; the same number might read my contacts, although most had a reason to do so.
Meanwhile, a whopping 42 apps had the ability to track my location, including the games "Fruit Ninja" and "Annoying Orange."
I was thankful most games installed on my phone fell into the "Low Risk" classification, into which Clueful places itself.
Clueful also screens apps being installed onto an Android device. For example, it told me that the Dropbox app wasn't a privacy threat, but that Google+ was a "moderate privacy risk."
There are some apps that fall outside Clueful's reach. It didn't have any info on nine of my installed apps.
Clueful is available for installation from the Google Play app store.
Copyright 2014 TechNewsDaily, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.