Controversy over Japanese app that published up to 760,000 personal addresses

A security firm says the Android app put up to 760,000 address book entries from 3,400 users into a searchable public database

An online debate has broken out over a Japanese mobile app that may have published as many as 760,000 address book records from its users in a publicly searchable database.

The mobile app, called "Zenkoku Denwacho," or "Nationwide Telephone Directory," was a free piece of software for Android phones that says it provides a database of Japanese phone numbers, names and some location information for private individuals and businesses. One "feature" of the app, which has been removed from the Google Play online store, was that it accessed the address books of users, including GPS data, then added that information to its public records.

On Tuesday, Japanese security firm NetAgent posted a blog entry calling the software "malicious" and saying it stole the information from users. But on download pages that were still online Wednesday, the app's description states that it is creating a national database and will "use" information from users' address books and GPS readings, adding them to its existing database of 38 million records taken from other online databases.

NetAgent said the app, which has been live since September, had been downloaded about 3,400 times and that as many as 760,000 address book records had been uploaded, without revealing how it reached those numbers.

Japanese media reported that police were investigating, though it was unclear if any crime had been committed. A police spokesman declined to comment on Wednesday.

In blogs and Twitter entries, an online debate ensued about the app and its similarity to other popular services in Japan, such as Line, a social network that also uploads user address books.

"It is impossible for me to totally protect against my data being uploaded to a Line server by one of my acquaintances," wrote one blogger in an entry about the incident, on a Japanese blog called "I Believe in Technology."

Comments on pages that linked to the app's former location on the Google Play store also noted the possibility of abuse, as it required access to address records as a prerequisite for installation.

"This might be dangerous?" wrote one reviewer.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jay Alabaster

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Bitdefender 2019

Taking cybersecurity to the highest level and order now for a special discount on the world’s most awarded and trusted cybersecurity. Be aware without a care!

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?