"It's not a case of hacking, rather it's that so many apps leak huge amounts of information — more than you think," Fredrik Wallin, spokesman for Sweden's National Defence Radio Establishment (Försvarets Radioanstalt, FRA) told the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.
"That's something you should be aware of as a user, but most often you're not."
Details leaked by the American whistleblower Edward Snowden show that the US National Security Agency (NSA) has educated staff about the amounts of information that can be gleaned from apps on people's smartphones.
The Guardian newspaper reported that an agency slide from a May 2010 presentation asked "What can we get?" when someone uploads an image to a social media site using a smartphone. The answer? Location, email, friends lists, and "a host of other social networking data".
The newspaper reported that one app susceptible to information leaks to foreign intelligence services was the immensely popular Angry Birds game, developed in Finland by app maker Rovio.
"Rovio doesn't have any previous knowledge of this matter, and have not been aware of such activity in third party advertising networks," Rovio marketing vice-president Saara Bergström told The Guardian.
The latest revelation pointed out that different apps could leak a wide range of information, including marital status, sexual orientation, income, and ethnicity. A user may also be giving away information about what level of education they have, whether they have children and, if so, how many.
Experts at the Swedish Data Protection Board (Datainspektionen) said many Swedes had testified to apps requesting access to their personal information. But while app makers were not allowed to gather user information without consent, they were well within their rights to request access to items such as photos and location, according to Ulrika Bergström, a lawyer for the data privacy watchdog.
— Annika Lantz (@annika_lantz) 28 januari 2014
Vad finns det för hemlig data att hämta från Angry Birds? Låter som om USA samlar på en massa skräp.
— Olof Lundh (@oloflundh) 28 januari 2014
Snowden: NSA bevakar din mail. Folket: Zz.. S: De hackar sig in i din dator. F: Zz.. S: De spionerar med hjälp av Angry Birds. F: NÄ NU JÄV
— 1.0 (@ettpunktnoll) 28 januari 2014