techkenyot.com
techkenyot.com July 17, 2018


Some apps on your phone may be recording and sharing your screen

05 July 2018, 11:22 | Casey Mitchell

Francisco Seco AP

Francisco Seco  AP

Lo and behold, an ad pops up as you're mindlessly scrolling through your Instagram feed trying to sell you discount flights to Havana - and this is before you've done any online research into the trip.

A group of five researchers from Northeastern University in Boston analysed the traffic generated by different smartphone applications to see whether they really eavesdropped on their users to send cues to Facebook for targeted advertisement.

But the researchers did find at least one case in which an app sent screen recordings and screenshots to a third-party mobile analytics company. The most prominent example for this conspiracy theory is Facebook ads that show up mysteriously based on the things you might have conversed about recently.

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Five researchers from Northeastern University in IL, who specialize in computer science, studied more than 17,000 popular Android apps - almost half of which were allowed access to a user's camera and microphone - over the past year. This included any app sending information to social media behemoth Facebook.

As Gizmodo reports, there wasn't a single instance when the apps turned on the phone's microphone or sent out any audio files. They attributed this possibility to a limitation of the research that an automated system can not create usernames or sign in like humans. As you might have guessed, the researchers found no evidence of apps activating the microphone or sending audio on the sly.

The study had limitations, and so the researchers stopped just short of declaring outright that phones never secretly record anyone. "We also identify a previously unreported privacy risk that arises from third party libraries that record and upload screenshots and videos of the screen without informing the user". For those unaware, AppSee is a mobile analytics company, and the data in the video could be very useful for them. However, AppSee claims that GoPuff should have informed its end-users way beforehand that its data was recorded and sent to us for analytical and performance optimisation purposes. Free apps may cost a little too much when it comes to your privacy.

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But don't worry: With this app in particular, you're in the clear. After being contacted by the researchers, GoPuff reportedly updated its privacy policy and removed the AppSee SDK. The results are in - and there's good news and bad news.

Google Play notes that all apps are required to "post a privacy policy that, together with any in-app disclosures, explain what user data your app collects and transmits, how it's used, and the types of parties with whom it's shared".

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