Thursday, August 31, 2017

Dictionary.com App’s “Bug Fix” Tracks and Monitors Its Users




Under the guise of a “bug fix” update, Dictionary.com started tracking its users’ location phone status, etc. A Reddit user was the first one to report the issue. Caught red-handed, dictionary.com has lost many users, premium users included, who ditched the app in favor of other alternative dictionary apps because who wants an app that monitors their phones, right?

The app’s new update authorizes it to access your location, retrieve running apps, pair with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices, read your device’s status and ID. It could even possibly keep track of your SMS, call logs as well as the apps installed on your device.

As pointed out, Dictionary.com’s update was first disguised as a “bug fix” at first before eventually spilling the truth about the update with the purpose of selling ads and data that matches the users’ preferences.

Many users speculated why the company would resort to such actions and assumed that the company is collecting data to sell to advertisers. This kind of behavior is concerning for most users especially the premium ones who think that they shouldn’t be exposed to such annoyance given the fact that they paid the app not to forfeit their privacy.

A spokesperson from Dictionary.com stated that this is actually a part of the ad program with the excuse of enhancing certain app features like mapping capability that allows users to see popular lookup nearby the user’s location and an addition to improving ad experience supporting their free apps. Here’s the full statement coming from Dictionary.com:

“Dictionary.com updated its Terms of Service and Privacy Policy on July 24, and provided in-app notification 15 days in advance and 15 days following to all users upon opening the app. The updates are designed to help us make Dictionary.com an even better experience. Knowing our users’ location allows us to enhance certain features, such as our mapping capability, which allows users to see popular lookups from others nearby, in addition to playing a role in improving the ad experience supporting our free apps. Other permissions are tied to features such as the ability to look up words from other apps or while offline. We are committed to providing the best possible Dictionary.com experience through our app, which has been downloaded more than 100M times, and that includes following best practices and clearly communicating changes to our users.”

Even with such lame excuse, it didn’t stop users from ditching and replacing it with a safer alternative app. So in a quest to replace the suspicious app, one user has compared all the dictionary apps and determined the Meriam Webster is the next best app for them.

This kind of issue is not new among Android apps, in fact, way back in May, Google banned an arm full of Android apps because of tracking user’s devices. These apps were found to use ultrasonic sounds to keep track of the devices’ activities unbeknownst to many users. The banning of these apps happened after researchers revealed that hundreds of Android apps are embedded with ultrasonic cross-device tracking technology which picked up inaudible “beacons” from ads. This kind of activity allowed marketers to create personalized ads based on your preferences which they were able to pick up since they were monitoring and tracking your entire move.

Because of such peculiarities among many apps, you have to be careful when installing or updating any apps.

If you want an application where you’d be the one monitoring and tracking users’ activities, then the Sms Tracker app is the one for you. Unlike Dictionary.com app, this app does not violate any users’ privacy as long as the app is installed with the consent of the user. This is an ideal app for parents and employers who want to keep tabs on their kids or employees. It monitors SMS, call logs, social media and messaging apps – Facebook, Instagram, Viber, Whatsapp and more.

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