With up to 100,000,000 downloads, Brightest Flashlight Free is one of the most popular apps on Google Play.
The Android app allows a device to be used as a flashlight.
It should have been a modern day technology success story, except for one thing: the app was secretly sharing users' data with advertisers without consent.
Computer security expert Graham Cluely has more background on the story.
Brightest Flashlight Free creator Goldenshores Technologies has agreed to settle US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charges that 'the app deceived consumers about how their geolocation information would be shared with advertising networks and other third parties'.
In reputation terms, this is a disaster for Goldenshores Technologies and its boss, Erik M. Geidl.
However, despite the outrage and negative coverage, there has been no public statement from them about the deception, nor has the company issued a message on their home page which, at the time of writing, has a news section that hasn't been updated since March 8th, 2011.
Before news of the misleading conduct was made public, reviews of the Brightest Flashlight app were overwhelmingly positive.
They've obviously built up a lot of goodwill. Nearly a million users have rated them 5 stars.
I think the company is missing a trick by seemingly burying its head in the sand.
They've obviously got a fantastic product which they're offering for free, so it's not unreasonable for them to want to make money from it.
If the company had been more transparent about how they generated revenue, they may probably have had fewer installs, but they would definitely have avoided the current massive headache.
Here's my advice:
- Goldenshore Technologies should make a full public apology to users in writing - on their website, on social media sites, on Google Play and through press releases.
- The company should explain exactly what the FTC settlement entails, especially 'when, how, and why their geolocation information is being collected, used and shared'.
- Erik M. Geidl should make a video statement on YouTube explaining what Goldenshores Technologies plans to do to increase transparency and restore trust.
- Keep making great apps!
Thoughts on customer service, communication and, of course, reputation management.