The popular Android app Vlingo has come under a bit of fire the past several days, as it seems the application is sending a bit more data than they explain in their privacy agreement. The folks over at Android Pit found some things that raised a few eyebrows, so we reached out to Vlingo to see what was what, and if we need to worry. We spent some time talking to product engineers, and our conclusion is that everything's on the up-and-up, but there were some issues with the way their privacy agreement was written or presented to the user and a software bug or two at work.
Things get a little muddy, partially because there's more than one Android version. One is available in the Market for any device to download, and there's a more customized version offered by OEM's like Samsung on the Galaxy Note. Different versions with different licenses and agreements simply led to the wrong version of the privacy agreement being presented to the user. The developers and staff at Vlingo recognize that there's an issue, and were completely transparent about the entire thing.
They also came across a bug that allowed the service to run even if the user initially canceled the request, and another that sends location data when none is requested. Again, Vlingo was up front about the issue and answered any questions we asked. They even have set up an opt-out process for folks who don't want to use the product with these issues, and they will delete all user data from anyone who requests it.
Yes, it's bad when software bugs force an application to send the wrong data. It's also bad when users aren't presented with the correct use policies -- even though most would never read them. But these types of things happen, and the real test is how the company reacts when presented with issues of this sort. And Vlingo aced it. They were courteous, and seemed genuinely concerned about the issues, without trying to back pedal or lay the blame at someone else's feet. This kind of transparency with the community is exactly what we deserve and expect. Hit the break for the official statement, in its entirety.
More info about the privacy concerns: Android Pit