Access and Feeds

Data Privacy: Data Harvesting by Mobile Apps ‘Out of Control’

By Dick Weisinger


Android phone leak massive amounts of data to third-party apps from Google Play stores, according to a report from the Oxford University. Based on a study of nearly one million apps in the Play store, the study found that 88 percent of them transfer much of the data that they access to Google.

The Oxford University report said that “we find that most apps contain third party tracking, and the distribution of trackers is long-tailed with several highly dominant trackers accounting for a large portion of the coverage. The extent of tracking also differs between categories of apps; in particular, news apps and apps targeted at children appear to be among the worst in terms of the number of third-party trackers associated with them. Third-party tracking is also revealed to be a highly trans-national phenomenon, with many trackers operating in jurisdictions outside the EU.”

Professor Nigel Shadbolt, research team lead, told BBC News that “People in business are desperate to get as many eyeballs and click-throughs as they can. I don’t think there’s any notion of control.”

Morten Brogger, CEO of the encrypted communication app Wire, said that “Oxford University’s research findings are sadly unsurprising. The big tech firms have a lucrative business model by utilising user data. Apps are free because they use data, rather than membership fees, to make money. Using free communications tools means they can weaponize your business’s data and build an in-depth profile of it. This profile building brings adtech firms closer and closer to that business until it knows it better than it knows itself. This is too close for comfort.”

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