Monday, 22 October, 2018

Apps record your on-screen activities and send them to third-parties

Apps record your on-screen activities and send them to third-parties Apps record your on-screen activities and send them to third-parties
Emmett Howard | 08 July, 2018, 05:25

For the a year ago, researchers at Northeastern University and the University of California, Santa Barbara, have been experimenting on 17,000 of the most popular Android apps to figure out whether any of them are secretly using your phone's microphone to record you. It was seen that the app recorded a video of what the person was doing inside GoPuff and sent to a domain affiliated with AppSee. According to a new research, it was merely a piece of fiction. They also determined that several photo-editing apps upload pictures to the cloud without informing their users. That puts paid to the conspiracy theory that our phones are always listening to us and using what they hear to target us with ads.

The researchers concluded after running their test on about 17,260 popular Android apps that also included Facebook.

Appsee's CEO Zahi Boussiba passed the buck to GoPuff and explained that Appsee's customers can "blacklist" certain parts of their app to prevent the company from recording any information.

How The Research Was Carried Out?

At no point did the researchers see an app activate the microphone to record a conversation or send an audio file without prompt.

They used an automated program which interacted with the apps on ten android phones. They kept a close eye on the type of files generated by the applications and whether they were sent to an unpredicted party.

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While some apps belonged to Facebook, around 8,000 others were capable of sending information to the social networking giant.

That information then gets sent to a remote server for distribution to other parties, thus making these screenshots more useful for anyone who wanted to illicitly profile a user. Over 9,000 apps under scrutiny had permission to access the phone's camera and microphone. Like good scientists, they refuse to say that their study definitively proves that your phone isn't secretly listening to you, but they didn't find a single instance of it happening. So don't be surprised if you find Facebook ads reading your mind. The system monitored whether these apps sent out any information to third parties - and found that they did.

So, What Can You Do To Stop It?

In addition to the screenshot problems listed above, another major takeaway from the study is that "there is poor correlation between the permissions that an app requests and the permissions that an app needs to successfully run its code".

While it is a monumental task for Google to study each and every app on the PlayStore, you as a user can make sure to go through the permissions as well as the terms and conditions of the app you are downloading. It's a scary notion, but quite possibly an unfounded one.

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