A study done by the National Information and Communications Technology Australia (NICTA) research group on Saturday shows that approximately a quarter of Android mobile phone apps come with tracking technology which mine your personal data and offer it to third party companies.
The study checked the top 100 paid apps on the Google Play store and found that they have 1.3 such trackers on average, while free game apps such as Swamp Attack and My Talking Tom top the list with 21 and 22 trackers connected to them each. Games Shadow Fight 2 and Crazy Taxi City Rush also are both connected to 15 different mining trackers.
The very popular Fruit Ninja and the Platinum version AccuWeather have 8 trackers connected to them each, while song recognizing app Shazam also has 7, making them the worst in this regard amongst paid apps.
“There is some element of the app trying to deceive the user, doing something more than its declared function. The trackers are leaking a huge range of data like contacts and your browser history to third parties so they can build a picture of you” said study lead author Aruna Seneviratne.
She also said that free flashlight apps are apparently specially created with many trackers which can collect call logs, photos or even location data. The top 10 flashlight apps as classified on Google Play have been proven to all have spyware technology incorporated, according to a separate 2014 study.
Free apps are also more liable to have tracking technology hidden within them than paid apps, as the most popular 100 free apps on Google Play had an average of 3.7 trackers per app, offering user information to external parties such as marketing and analytics agencies.
Canberra Centre for Internet Safety’s Nigel Phair has warned smartphone users that there was and always will be a big catch on free apps, as they are made free specially because they use mining technology to monetize your data, be it through custom in-app adds or by offering your address book to marketers.
Google have repeatedly denied claims that apps in their Play Store are infected with any kind of spyware and tracking technology, stating that the app store itself has built-in technology which does over 200 million security scans every day and flags malicious apps. A 2014 research conducted by the Silicon Valley giant reportedly claimed that less than one percent of all devices using an Android OS were infected with malicious apps.
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