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Third-party Spies Could Be Hiding in Your Favorite App

Posted June 15, 2017 1:00 PM by MaggieMc

A week or two ago I wrote about personalized internet ads and how third-party cookies mine our data, hopefully to provide us with the perfect ad experience. Now, IMDEA Networks Institute reveals that 7 in 10 smart phone apps share your data too.

When we install a new app, it often asks our permission to access other pieces of our personal information in order for it to function. For example, a messaging app will want to see your contacts. What we may not realize is that once the app has permission to collect that information, it can share your data with anyone.

If a GPS app sends your location to a server to help find you directions from your current coordinates, it can send that location elsewhere too.

I’ve often heard it said that Google knows so much of our personal information—our workplaces, our contact info, and sometimes even our credit card numbers—that it could take over the world. Or at least blackmail many of us.

The research conducted by IMDEA Networks Institute suggests that Google might not be the only one who views all of this information as power (or money), since information collected by individual apps are often grouped by unique identifiers pulled from our phones, compiling a mini database of our activity.

IMDEA is setting out to make each of us more aware with their own app, the Lumen Privacy Monitor (pictured left and below), which analyzes the traffic of each of the other apps on your phone. It tells you when Google Maps sends to Google servers, but it also tells you when another app sends information to somewhere completely unexpected.

Of course, Lumen also asks to share some of this data with the researchers at IMDEA, promising that the data shared won’t include any of the personal information being accessed by your other apps, just that the app shared something private and to where.

I wasn’t able to download and test Lumen on my phone, but the idea sounds pretty neat to me. At least then I would know who knows all about my life. I’m not alone in thinking that either. Since October 2015, more than 1,600 people have used Lumen and through them, the researchers have had access to 5,000 apps.

Researchers revealed that:

· 598 internet sites (think: Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and big name internet service providers like Verizon Wireless) were tracking for advertising purposes

· More than 70% of the apps studied shared information with at least one tracker

· Fifteen percent of apps shared information with five or more trackers

· One in four trackers pulled a “unique device identifier” they used to link your information to you

Researchers also noted that information crossed country borders, into locations with lax privacy laws, and that information included unique identifiers being pulled from apps for children. The IMDEA reminds readers that this is particularly problematic because these identifiers can sometimes be linked to a specific physical location. Not only would a third-party know your son likes the latest Pixar movie, they could know where he was.

While Lumen and its researchers provide this information, they say that “it’s hard to know what users might do about this.” Without abandoning the apps mining the information, it’s hard to opt out of using them.

So, delete some of your less useful apps—or don’t—but at least now we can all know where our information is going.

Image Credits: Rami Al-zayat/Unsplash and IMDEA

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#1

Re: Third-party Spies Could Be Hiding in Your Favorite App

06/15/2017 2:36 PM

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Re: Third-party Spies Could Be Hiding in Your Favorite App

06/15/2017 4:58 PM

Your big brother will have a short nose, if he don't start watching where he sticks it!

I ain't got no big (or little) brother, but there was a time when I had five sisters.

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Re: Third-party Spies Could Be Hiding in Your Favorite App

06/15/2017 4:57 PM

These third party guys, what are they, Independents? Green Party? They better git out of my phone if they know what is good. I will sic wifey on them, and then it's Katie bar the door! She will give them the old laser eye, and it's all over.

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#4

Re: Third-party Spies Could Be Hiding in Your Favorite App

06/15/2017 6:08 PM

It's 'the Russians' isn't it? I knew it's them all along.

Sure they deny it and I have zero proof but the fact I can't prove it, proves it, because they are really sneaky that way.

(posted by 'not russian spies' not using tcmtech's computer accounts.)

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Re: Third-party Spies Could Be Hiding in Your Favorite App

06/15/2017 6:49 PM

Anonymous source, huh?

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#6

Re: Third-party Spies Could Be Hiding in Your Favorite App

06/15/2017 11:24 PM

Yesterday I ate at a diner. Never used my phone.

Today I was using my phone and a couple question bubbles popped up asking me about the place.?!

Ironically I was having lunch with my big brother.

Needless to say it's annoying,.

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Re: Third-party Spies Could Be Hiding in Your Favorite App

06/16/2017 8:54 AM

So, did Big Brother eat your lunch?

They have that annoying thing where ads just pop up if you have ever crossed the threshold of that business. Ain't GPS wonderful.

I read about a new phone tracking thingy (it was a thread on here) that one of the responders mentioned this WIFI charging in motion could be used to track even a dead cell phone (rather one that is turned off).

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Re: Third-party Spies Could Be Hiding in Your Favorite App

06/16/2017 9:10 AM

It's been my experience that apps always ask if they can track you, and if they can share your information...Your title suggests some nefarious purpose, but then provides none....You know they do have spyware for phones....I personally don't have any problem sharing opinions on product quality and company service as I rely on others opinions a lot of the time when choosing which item to purchase, it saves time and money...

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Re: Third-party Spies Could Be Hiding in Your Favorite App

06/16/2017 9:50 AM

That is a valid point.

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Re: Third-party Spies Could Be Hiding in Your Favorite App

06/16/2017 10:31 AM

It's been my experience that apps always ask if they can track you, and if they can share your information...

tats the price you pay, nothing is ever free...

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