iPhone jailbreak: 5 Apps to control your privacy

Jailbreaking your iPhone gives you complete control over the device, enabling you to install tools that keep data under your control

Don't bet on the new agreement between the State of California, Apple, Google and others to protect information on your iPhone from data-snooping third-party apps such as the social networking service Path. If you really want to protect your data, there's only one way to do it: jailbreak your iPhone. Jailbreaking gives you complete control (and responsibility) over your phone, enabling you to install all kinds of tools that make sure your data stays where it belongs: under your control.

Here's a look at five post-jailbreak tools that don't leave it up to Apple, Google or any other company to look after your best interests and put you in complete control of your data.

The state of smartphone privacy

California on Wednesday announced a new agreement with Amazon, Apple, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, and Research In Motion. These companies in the coming months will ensure that third-party apps in their respective stores supply a privacy policy that you can review before you install an app detailing any personal data the app wants to access. Any app that doesn't comply could be prosecuted under California's Unfair Competition or False Advertising Laws.

The agreement was six months in the making, but comes after recent high-profile incidents where apps were found to be grabbing a user’s personal data without notifying that individual. The most notable was Path, a social networking app available for iPhone and Android that was uploading users’ address books to their servers without notifying them. Path has since changed its ways, and since then numerous apps have been outed as data-grabbing software including Foodspotting, Twitter, and Yelp.

While California's move to protect user privacy is welcome news, the agreement still requires users to trust that California prosecutors, app store providers, and app makers are all doing their job and behaving themselves.

If that idea makes you nervous here, without further ado, are examples of five tools for jailbroken iPhones that just might convince privacy-conscious users to jailbreak their device.

This free extension automatically alerts you the first time an app wants to access your address book. If you say no, the app won't get access to your contacts, but it may cause the app to stop working properly. ContactPrivacy was created by jailbreak app maker Ryan Petrich in direct response to the recent Path address book controversy.

A step up from ContactPrivacy, Protect My Privacy prevents any app from grabbing your contacts, location and your device's unique identifier information. Instead of blocking the information, however, PMP will supply an app with fake information to prevent it from crashing. You can even specify a phony location for any app that wants your current locale, but doesn't necessarily need it. PMP was developed by two professors at the University of California San Diego. PMP is free and works with iOS 4.0 or higher.

This free app creates a global opt-out to stop apps with analytics information from tracking your location and harvesting other data. It was specifically designed to stop analytics collection from Pinch Media, Flurry, Medialets, and Mobclix. PrivaCy was created by Jay Freeman, the creator of Cydia, the App Store equivalent for jailbroken devices. Pinch Media and Flurry announced a merger in late 2009.

Obscure your passcode keypad with this free extension that makes your phone's passcode difficult for others to read if they're looking over your shoulder. A handy tool, but it can't stop your greasy fingerprints from giving away your code.

Filter your phone calls and SMS messages with this app. MCleaner lets you create phone and SMS blacklists, whitelists, profiles (such as "only accept calls from address book contacts"), and a scheduler to stop calls and messages at certain times. Not only will this app keep unwelcome callers away, but it's very useful for anyone managing a high call volume on their iPhone. MCleaner costs $12, but you can try it free for 15 days.

There's never been a better time to jailbreak your iPhone, especially if you're concerned about privacy and protecting your data from corporate interests.

Connect with Ian Paul (@ianpaul) on Twitter and Google+, and with Today@PCWorld on Twitter for the latest tech news and analysis.

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Ian Paul

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