Clean Master, Cheetah Keyboard, Subway Surfers & 17K Other Android Apps Recording Users’ Online Activities Without Their Consent

Research reveals that around 17000 android apps have been recording the data of online activities of users for advertising purposes, without their permission.

According to research published by Serge Egelman and the International Computer Science Institute in Calfornia, the apps are using Advertising IDs and persistent identifiers to produce targeted and personalized ads. For this, they have been recording online activities of users, even if they have asked to forget their information.

These apps are violating Google’s policies which forbid user tracking and advert monetization. Google does not allow developers an advertisers to connect Advertising IDs to gain personal information of users or their devices, including SSAIDs, IMEIs, Android ID or MAC addresses. Also, developers need to respect if users do not allow personalized ads.

These 17000 android applications have been recording online activities to permanently connect users, their devices and their online activities. Furthermore, even if a user opts out of advertising preferences, their choices are ignored b the app developers.
"The bottom line is that one of the privacy mechanisms that Google presents to users essentially doesn't do anything.", explained Serge Egelman a Research Director of the Usable Security & Privacy Group at the International Computer Science Institute.
20 famous apps, with almost 100 million downloads, and some with billion downloads have been mentioned in the report. Clean Master, Angry Birds Classic (game), Audible (from Amazon), Cheetah Keyboard, My Talking Tom and Subway Surfers are included in the list.

Flipboard was also on the list but its developers clarified that they do not record Android Ids for ad targeting.

Researchers claimed that the privacy controls by Google only control ad ID, but apps have been collecting other persistent identifiers along with ad ID.

In response to the privacy issues reported, Google said that they would take action against some of the apps. The spokesperson of tech giant said that they take such issues seriously and always review apps, including the ones mentioned in research. The company said they will be taking actions against the apps who have been violating the policies.

17,000 Google Play Store apps TRACKING Android users without their consent
Photo: Justin Sullivan / Getty

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