Study: Vast Majority of Google Play Apps Are Covertly Tracking Users
Yale University Privacy lab
has concluded that over three out of four of
Per the Intercept , the trackers involved allowed the apps to identify users based on third-party data, track movements, map interpersonal relationships among users, and track both offline movement and shopping habits. One named Fidzup is powerful enough to track users' movements in retail stores using sonic emitters or wi-fi signals and serve them ads based on where they may be roaming within the store. Even apps for seemingly innocuous purposes, like the AccuWeather and the Weather Channel apps, included trackers monitoring "web browsing and app usage behavior over time and across digital properties," the Intercept wrote.
As Yale wrote in a
, particularly concerning were "the potential impact of
It's not hard to surmise why the trackers are so widespread-users are easily suckered into downloading apps, especially free ones, and including trackers turns every user's data into a monetizable commodity-and the ubiquity of the tracking software only underscores how widespread spying on users is in the digital era. The researchers were particularly concerned that the individual streams of data could be merged to build intimate profiles of users.
"I think people are used to the idea, whether they should be or not, that Lyft might be tracking them," Yale Privacy Lab visiting fellow Sean O'Brien told the Intercept. "And they're used to the fact that if Lyft is on Android and coming from
There's not really a lot users can do to control this other than not installing anything other than trusted, open-source apps; according to the analysis, many of the apps on the Google Play store have only temporary or limited privacy controls that make it difficult or impossible to turn off the tracking. Though the research did not touch