Those of us who have spent our formative years on the internet are no stranger to spyware. The familiar mantra of “Don’t click on links in email,” and “Don’t open that executable file” are so ingrained in our psyche that when instances of computer virus infection and malware discoveries occur, we often find ourselves asking how we could have been so careless. Well, it turns out that such data mining programs are not endemic to personal computers. There are a large number of apps on the Google Play market that contain tainted technology.
As the headline from the Brisbane Times elucidates, “One in four apps on your Android mobile needlessly mining your personal data.” That’s 25% of the apps on the market mining your personal data. Australian IT research agency NITCA conducted a study on some of the most popular free and paid apps and found that many of them have at least 10, and sometimes up to 20 data trackers embedded in their programming.
Many smartphone users are familiar with free apps that employ advertisements to offset the cost of creating the app. Sometimes these ads are subtle, and sometimes they are overt and in your face. This often leads users to seek out free apps without ads. Who wouldn’t? But the question remains: Why would someone create an app and not seek to get any revenue from his or her hard work? The answer is because they’re probably mining your personal data.
From mobile device research leader at NITCA Aruna Seneviratne:
I can write a flashlight app and give it away free and get information. In the malicious case, you can use it to do other things, finding out your exact location.
He goes on to say that these trackers are leaking data like your contacts and browsing history to outside parties. But that doesn’t mean that paid apps are any better.
There’s this belief paid apps are safe. But whether free or paid, the same type of information is being extracted by external parties, ad agencies, analytics agencies.
A Google spokesman said that the company is dedicated to safety and conducts over 200 million security scans on devices each day. Still, given the data shown by researchers, users should exercise some caution when downloading any program to their mobile device. The same caution they would exercise downloading questionable software to their personal computers.
Born and raised in Orange County, I’m Just your average guy with delusions of grandeur. Part time poet and full time geek, my interest run the gamut from video games and sci fi movies to newly emerging tech and various Cons.