Color a Potential Spammers' Heaven?

By Fahmida Y. Rashid  |  Posted 2011-04-04 Print this article Print

If you are even remotely concerned about online privacy, you might reconsider using the Color mobile application, as it is worthless if you aren't willing to share your location information.

Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant at Sophos, pointed out on the NakedSecurity blog that Color is up-front about the lack of privacy in its service and suggests that if you don't want to reveal your location, you shouldn't use it. However, just not using the service isn't enough as non-Color users would have their location information publicized if a Color user photographs them, Cluley said.

"Bad news if you happen to be a person photographed by a Color user, who then reveals your location to the rest of the world, too," he said.

Other popular photo-sharing sites, including Yahoo's Flickr and Google's Picasa allow users to set images as private. When Facebook rolled out Places last year, it gave users the opportunity to entirely opt out so that other users couldn't reveal their location information.

The Color app for iPhone and Android made headlines late March after it raised $41 million in capital. While sharing mobile photos doesn't seem like anything new, what's unusual about Color is that every photo taken is public. As Cluley pointed out, the photos are accessible not just to friends, but to anyone in close proximity.

[Check out eWEEK colleague Clint Boulton's story on Color.]

Color uses the photos' location information to determine what other user photographs to share with you, Cluley said.

A section of Color's privacy policy reads, "We share your Content with others. Sharing Content publicly with others from different locations is what this App is about. If you find this objectionable, please consider not using our App or Site."

At the moment, it's unclear how Color plans to police the images, or if it intends to do so. If there are no protections in place, there is nothing to stop spammers from filling up galleries with junk images, he said.

"Just imagine, bopping away at the Justin Bieber concert and all of a sudden your Color app pops up something quite unsavory, or an image encouraging folks to buy Miley Cyrus CDs instead, or linking to a malicious Web page," Cluley said.

Perhaps worrying about privacy is a little premature, as the application may not live up to hype. Along with receiving some terrible reviews, users may just not bother using it. Color co-founder and CEO Bill Nguyen acknowledged to Mashable that the application is not as useful if a user is not within 150 feet of other users. |

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