Multiple highly popular Android applications, including Uber, Tinder, Twitter, Snapchat, and Spotify are all secretly tracking their users, according to a shocking new report from Privacy Lab and the French non-profit organization Exodus Privacy.
While savvy internet users have long believed that various computer and phone applications regularly track their users without their consent, this new report has moved the discussion from internet forums to the mainstream and has once again proven another fact that the alternative media has reported on for years.
The news came after Yale University’s Privacy Lab wrote a blog post discussing the research of the organization Exodus Privacy which revealed dozens of “hidden trackers” in various popular Android apps that essentially allow the companies to track a users every move.
“Publication of this information is in the public interest, as it reveals clandestine surveillance software that is unknown to Android users at the time of app installation,” Privacy Lab wrote. “These trackers vary in their features and purpose, but are primarily utilized for targeted advertising, behavioral analytics, and location tracking.”
Researchers with the program investigated 25 of 44 trackers that had been identified by Exodus Privacy who detected the hidden spying by analyzing apps from the Google Play store, with their findings sending shock waves through the tech world and once again proving that Silicon Valley is actively spying on their users despite repeated denials.
The Privacy Lab blog post continued:
Privacy Lab has published details from its research into 25 trackers hidden inside popular Google Play apps such as Uber, Tinder, Skype, Twitter, Spotify, and Snapchat.[…]
At Privacy Lab, we’ve studied the data from Exodus output, providing insight into the origin of advertising trackers, the companies behind them, and their surveillance practices. Network activity originating from these Android apps crosses multiple countries and legal jurisdictions.
Lack of transparency about the collection, transmission, and processing of data via these trackers raises serious privacy concerns and may have grave security implications for mobile software downloaded and in active use by billions of people worldwide.
More than 75% of the 300+ apps analyzed by Exodus contain the signatures of trackers, though this data does not tell the whole story. There is an entire industry based upon these trackers, and apps identified as “clean” today may contain trackers that have not yet been identified.
Tracker code may also be added by developers to new versions of apps in the future. The Exodus platform identifies trackers via signatures, like an anti-virus or spyware scanner, and thus can only detect trackers previously identified by researchers at the time of the scan.
For this reason, new trackers will be added as the software is developed, and apps should continue to be scanned over time. Privacy Lab urges the information security community to help expedite this process.
Thanks to the hard work of the Exodus team, a simple Web-based interface can peer into this worldwide market of approximately 3.3 million apps and reveal to the public the “open secret” of clandestine trackers.
The researchers from Yale went on to call for increased transparency from the app developers as well as from Google themselves considering that the internet giant is the company in charge of the app store in the first place.
Sadly, one can rightfully assume that this will play out in the mainstream media for a few days (if that) and then completely disappear while the companies involved with give lip service to transparency and then go right back to secretly (and possibly illegally) tracking anyone who downloads their applications or uses their service.
Only when the public, in mass, stops using technology that uses these hidden trackers will the companies ever actually change the way they do business.
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Contributed by Alex Thomas of The Daily Sheeple.