Data and Goliath

Yesterday, Democracy Now! interviewed Bruce Schneier for his book Data and Goliath. The book includes a footnote to the informative Analysis of Brightest Flashlight Free for Android in his “Business of Surveillance” chapter. Schneier notes that “the app started collecting and sending location information even before people clicked” accept on the license agreement. The FTC “didn’t fine the company, though, because the app was free.” More than 50 million users have downloaded the malware on the various app stores.

What is appalling is how often media coverage completely misunderstands the concept of consent with cases like this, Superfish and the Facebook Experiment. A typical example is this Guardian article:

Are users bothered by the privacy implications of these kinds of apps? Seemingly not, judging by their popularity. Brightest Flashlight has been installed more than 50m times according to the Google Play store’s stats.

The whole point is that these companies are not disclosing to the users what they are doing to them. And so it’s the users’ fault that they’re not bothered by the transgressions?