More than 70 per cent of smartphone apps are reporting personal data to third-party tracking companies like Google Analytics, the Facebook Graph API or Crashlytics, warns a new study.
When people install a new Android or iOS app, it asks the user’s permission before accessing personal information. Some of the information these apps are collecting are necessary for them to work properly: A map app wouldn’t be nearly as useful if it couldn’t use GPS data to get a location.
But once an app has permission to collect that information, it can share your data with anyone the app’s developer wants to — letting third-party companies track where you are, how fast you are moving and what you are doing.
To get a picture of what data are being collected and transmitted from people’s smartphones, the researchers from IMDEA Networks Institute in Spain developed a free Android app of their own, called the Lumen Privacy Monitor.
It analyses the traffic apps send out, to report which applications and online services actively harvest personal data.
Because Lumen is about transparency, a phone user can see the information installed apps collect in real time and with whom they share these data.
“We try to show the details of apps’ hidden behaviour in an easy-to-understand way. It’s about research, too, so we ask users if they’ll allow us to collect some data about what Lumen observes their apps are doing – but that doesn’t include any personal or privacy-sensitive data,” the researchers said in a statement released by the institute.
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