Researcher: Free Android apps connect to thousands of tracking and ad URLs

“The average free Android app silently connects to more than 100 different web addresses to serve adverts and track users, according to a paper from French research institute Eurecom,” Alex Hern reports for The Guardian.

“The worst offenders found on the Google Play store connect to orders of magnitude of up to 20 times more sites. One app that does nothing more than control volume “connects to almost 2,000 distinct URLs” when it’s booted up on a phone,” Hern reports. “While the presence of advertising in free apps is unlikely to surprise users, the frequent involvement of sites that track personal information is less expected.”

“The researchers argue that the findings demonstrate the downside of the relatively open nature of Android app stores,” Hern reports. “‘The lack of oversight in Android Play Store makes it all too easy for end users to install applications of dubious origin, or those which silently carry out activity that might not be seen favourably by the user … Our results underscore the need for greater transparency in the network interaction of mobile applications on the Android App store[s],’ they conclude.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: “Open.”

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Sparkles” for the heads up.]

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    1. I doubt that most of them even give it a thought. It is not so much being naive, as oblivious. These nefarious activities are intentionally hidden in the background.

      I wonder if AT&T, Verizon, et. al., promote this kind of background activity to boost bandwidth consumption and push people towards more expensive plans. I am not saying that they do, but I would not put it past them.

  1. I would submit that the VAST majority of people who use Android phones are completely ignorant of the amount of tracking of their lives that is happening or the total impact it has on their lives. If they really understood, they wouldn’t be using Android phones.

  2. On the other hand, there are at least 14 ad beacons on this MDN page. And Facebook follows people around who don’t even have accounts. It may be a huge problem with Android, but it’s not Android’s problem alone.

  3. If an app is free then you are the product.

    I would also like Apple to end free apps with in app purchases that are designed to endlessly milk customers for money.

    Asphalt 6- buy it and it is yours.
    Asphalt 8 free and you get to pay forever.

    Just one example.

    I do not want to rent music, video or software.

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