Thousands of Google Play Apps Are Collecting Install App Data
A research study published for the MobileSoft ’20 conference found that an average Android device will be accessed by thousands of Google Play apps every day, including many that a person has not installed. The apps will collect details on all the installed apps on one’s phone or device. The effort collects information on users to provide details to developers and advertisers.
The report suggests that close to four thousand apps access devices each day. The concern may be interpreted as an invasion of a user’s privacy. But some apps might not be as likely to collect information due to how some of them have higher standards for protection.
How This Works
An app that finds peoples’ data will use an Android-based programming interface that will review a device to see what apps are installed. The details an outside part finds will include the names of those apps, the dates they were installed, and many other factors.
All that data will then go on remote servers for research and identification purposes. All of this works without people being notified. Those people are not giving any permission to allow their data to be released.
The effort comes from the use of an installed application method or IAM used on Android. An IAM lets apps interact with each other in the background. Details on apps are easy to gather. The info is not interpreted by Google to be sensitive, thus allowing people to get this data.
What Apps Collect Data?
The research study went over about 14,000 free apps and nearly 8,000 open source apps. It found that about 4,200 of those apps, or about 30 percent of what was studied, use IAMs to collect data. The apps that collect data include games, comics, personalization programs, auto-related apps, and social communication items.
The content was used to collect information for advertising purposes. Very few of these appear to be gathering data to try and learn how they can improve upon the programs they produce.
The total apps reviewed were a small sampling of the nearly three million apps that people can download on Android. The result found that there’s a good chance that many other prominent apps on the operating platform might take in data.
Open-source apps are significantly less likely to collect data. But these apps require people to download them from third-party marketplaces. The added security prevents the apps from being capable of collecting as much data as what they could try to gather.
Could This Change In the Future?
Google has been working on some changes to the Android setup. The upcoming plans from Google could prevent such monitoring actions from happening. One idea for Android 11 would be for Android to have higher standards for what people can gather out of an app. An app manifest would be required in one instance. The manifest would provide essential details on the app and the intention of the program. Also, new permissions would have to be established to confirm what actions the app may produce.