Citigroup Admits to Mobile Banking App Privacy Flaw

by Matt Klassen on July 28, 2010

It regularly surprises me to discover just how reckless people are with their private information in this modern technological age, as a simple guarantee affixed to any website assuring people that their privacy and safety is ensured is more than enough  to get most consumers to hand over their credit card digits. But with that said, there have got to be some trustworthy companies out there that take your privacy seriously.

As mobile technology advances into areas of commerce and banking, companies are quickly working to provide the best mobile experience to their customers. The problem, as Citigroup’s mobile banking users discovered late last week, is that while companies may care about protecting your privacy, it’s a completely different matter as to whether they know how to protect it.

In a case that is turning out to be more about sloppy programming and less about malicious privacy infringements, Citigroup announced last week that the financial institution’s incredibly popular iPhone app had a serious glitch that saved crucial private data in a hidden file on the phone…a glitch that’s been around since March 2009.

This means that if your phone or even your computer (had it been synced to your iPhone) ever fell into the hands of someone who knew what they were looking for, they would have unobstructed access to your personal data—including your account numbers, bill payment information, and all passwords or access codes; just the sorts of things that you would never want to be just lying around on your mobile device.

In a move to save face, however, Citigroup only revealed this potentially damaging privacy snafu last week, the day after they had released their latest application upgrade, a move which ostensibly made the privacy concern obsolete. But how long has Citigroup known about the privacy concerns? That, my friends, is the real question.

Although Citigroup has continually assured its concerned customers over the past week that no one has been negatively affected by this issue, meaning that no one has reported their private financial information being accessed through this breech, it is this sort of thing that shakes consumer confidence in the burgeoning mobile world. If you can’t trust a multinational financial institution like Citigroup to know what they’re doing with your private information, who can you trust?

But if stories like this teach us anything, it’s that you really can’t trust anyone. Of course that doesn’t mean you should stop using those mobile apps that you’ve dependant on, but that you just need to do so with a little common sense. Simply put, always treat your phone like it’s a wallet, meaning never leave it lying around; always use the integrated security features on your phone itself, like the locking system; and always do research into the policies each institution puts in place to protect your information and your finances.

Or just keep trusting companies like Citigroup to do it all for you.

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