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News

Android users warned of covert user profiling

BitDefender UK : 04 April, 2013  (Technical Article)
BitDefender warns Android users of a new breed of advertisers who harvest location and personal data for uploading to servers
Android users warned of covert user profiling

Bitdefender has conducted research that found popular Android apps to be extremely curious while collecting and uploading location, email address, and user phone numbers to third-party servers.

A recent study on some 130,000 popular free Android apps revealed that aggressive advertisers breach user privacy by uploading phone numbers to third-party entities. Some 12.87 percent of analysed apps were found to collect and broadcast users’ phone numbers without explicit notification.

Location data and personal email addresses were also accessed and distributed to third parties by 12.03 percent and 7.72 percent, respectively, of analysed apps.

“The thin line between aggressive advertisers and malware is getting blurrier,” said Catalin Cosoi, Chief Security Strategist at Bitdefender. “While malware may steal passwords and other credentials, aggressive advertisers may collect everything else. Although violating user privacy raises serious concerns, the risk of having collected data used for malicious purposes is greater than most people imagine.”

While some apps may legitimately require access to such data, others access it without the app explicitly needing it to perform adequately. Apps that access browsing history account for 6.07 percent, while some apps even require access to photos.

Android users are advised to exercise extreme caution when installing apps and to always check for what permissions they require. Installing a mobile security solution that can detect virulent adware is also recommended, as data privacy should be a top priority.

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