Thousands of Android Apps Are Spying User Activities

Thousands of favorite Android apps are keeping an eye on the user’s smartphone activities and sharing the data with advertisers. Some apps may track user activity when the user order them to erase history. There’s nothing which can stop these apps from spying users knowingly or unknowingly. The news emerged when researchers at the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) studied 24,000 Android apps. They found that 70% of the apps were breaching Google’s rules and regulations. The Android apps send permanent device ID that can quickly reveal user actions and usage of other apps. Ad networking services use this data for spying users. As per the new study, around 17,000 apps are in the line of breaking Google’s policies around what types of user activities can be tracked and shared with data brokers.

The illegal data collection is a subject to violate the search giant’s policy. Researchers say those apps can track the user by linking a phone’s unique and resettable Advertising ID to customize advertising. The apps also share other crucial and permanent information of the device, mainly the numbers that uniquely identify the devices like MAC address, IMEI number, and Android ID. Google recommends to collect only the Advertising ID and calls it the best practice for developers. When apps collect all the information along with numbers then nothing remains personal. Serge Egelman, leading author of the study, says privacy disappears when apps collect those permanent identifiers. He also said that they reported about their research to the search giant in September.

Security experts are worried about the findings because the apps can potentially track a user’s permanent ids. The more worst thing is device owners cannot turn off the identification or tracking process. The team of researchers previously detected around 6,000 children apps illegally collecting information. Some of the popular apps collecting user information are Angry Birds Classic, Audiobooks, Clean Master, Battery Doctor and many more. Surprisingly, 100 million users downloaded all of those apps. On the other hand, Google said it had inspected Egelman’s report, and taken legal action on malicious apps. The company said its rules allow for the collection of hardware identifiers and Android ID. The information can be used in case of fraud detection. The company declines the claim that ad companies use this information.

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