Dolphin Browser HD Accused of Privacy Intrusion [Updated]

October 30, 2011
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[ Update 2011-10-30: After reading the October 28 version of our report about the privacy issue, the Dolphin Browser’s PR team reached out to us and informed us that the issue has been “100% fixed.”  In a private message, a PR representative emphatically noted that the browser “never tracked browsing history” and that “there has been absolutely no breach in user privacy or security.”  The app’s developer also issued an updated version of the app.  The updated version reportedly temporarily disables the Webzine feature, which seemed to be the crux of the whole issue.  MoboTap published a complete explanation of the issue on its blog.  An updated version (containing the fix) of the Dolphin Browser HD app for Android is now available from the Android Market. –Ed. ]

Dolphin Browser HD is in the middle of a controversy–an issue on the breach of privacy of its users. Dolphin Browser HD version 6 and version 7 attracted the attention of the people at the XDA Developers forum because it seems like the said versions of the browser are going beyond users’ private information.

According to one forum member, the new Webzine feature of the browser records the user’s browser history, which includes links, searches, and visited pages. The most alarming thing about it is that the information about the user is said to be sent to a remote server.

Though the allegation is only for the Dolphin Browser HD that uses the RSS-based Webzine feature.  Users of the Dolphin Browser Mini are excluded from the issue.  The app’s license agreement, even the app itself, does not mention or alert the user that information will be logged, although there is mention of collecting “user experience data.”

Apparently, logging can’t be disabled by the user, although several forum members are saying that the “en.mywebzines.com” server can be blacklisted in the Android hosts file, which some root-required apps can ably do.

For the meantime, the accusations remain unconfirmed and supporting evidence of the issue still lacks details.  There is no evidence yet, too, regarding whether the collected data are actually used and how they are used.

The developer of Dolphin Browser, MoboTap was queried about the controversy, but MoboTap has yet to respond to the issue.

Although some users of the browser may just see it as a minor issue, it could be more serious than it may seem. The company’s intention might be to further improve the browser by collecting information about users’ browsing patterns and activities.  That’s kind of creepy, no? It’s like users have their own e-stalker to record their browsing activities.

What is your position on e-stalking?

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