Popular VPN and ad-blocking apps are secretly harvesting user data

Sensor Tower, a popular analytics platform for tech developers and investors, has been secretly collecting data from millions of people who have installed popular VPN and ad-blocking apps for Android and iOS, a BuzzFeed News investigation has found.

Three Sensor Tower apps. (Source: BuzzFeed News)
Three Sensor Tower apps. (Source: BuzzFeed News)

Craig Silverman for BuzzFeed News:

These apps, which don’t disclose their connection to the company or reveal that they feed user data to Sensor Tower’s products, have more than 35 million downloads.

Since 2015, Sensor Tower has owned at least 20 Android and iOS apps. Four of these — Free and Unlimited VPN, Luna VPN, Mobile Data, and Adblock Focus — were recently available in the Google Play store. Adblock Focus and Luna VPN were in Apple’s App Store. Apple removed Adblock Focus and Google removed Mobile Data after being contacted by BuzzFeed News. The companies said they continue to investigate…

A dozen of the Sensor Tower apps were previously removed from the iOS App Store due to violations, according to an Apple spokesperson. After being contacted by BuzzFeed News, Apple removed Adblock Focus and said it is continuing to investigate Luna VPN.

Google is investigating the apps but did not comment by deadline.

MacDailyNews Take: Ay yi yi. Apparently, these apps prompt users to install a root certificate which allows its issuer access all traffic and data passing through a device. Obviously, as we Mac users already know, giving root privileges exposes users to significant risk. Hopefully, this will be a wake up call to Apple to, uh… root out any apps that are clandestinely harvesting user data.


      1. Yeah, well, I have to turn it off sometimes for a couple of apps (including a banking one) and a few times it’s been the culprit for a data slowdown, but I find it worthwhile.

  1. It’s apparently not a matter of “working well,” it’s what happening behind the scenes the “casual” user wouldn’t see.

    A slimy VPN app is truly like a fox in the hen house.

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