Shock Report: Popular Android Apps, Including Uber, Twitter, And Snapchat, Are Secretly TRACKING “Everything You Do”

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Top Tier Gear USA

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Multiple highly popular Android applications, including Uber, Tinder, Twitter, Snapchat, and Spotify are all secretly tracking their users, according to a shocking new report from Privacy Lab and the French non-profit organization Exodus Privacy.

While savvy internet users have long believed that various computer and phone applications regularly track their users without their consent, this new report has moved the discussion from internet forums to the mainstream and has once again proven another fact that the alternative media has reported on for years.

The news came after Yale University’s Privacy Lab wrote a blog post discussing the research of the organization Exodus Privacy which revealed dozens of “hidden trackers” in various popular Android apps that essentially allow the companies to track a users every move.

“Publication of this information is in the public interest, as it reveals clandestine surveillance software that is unknown to Android users at the time of app installation,” Privacy Lab wrote. “These trackers vary in their features and purpose, but are primarily utilized for targeted advertising, behavioral analytics, and location tracking.”

Researchers with the program investigated 25 of 44 trackers that had been identified by Exodus Privacy who detected the hidden spying by analyzing apps from the Google Play store, with their findings sending shock waves through the tech world and once again proving that Silicon Valley is actively spying on their users despite repeated denials.

The Privacy Lab blog post continued:

Privacy Lab has published details from its research[1] into 25 trackers hidden inside popular Google Play apps such as Uber, Tinder, Skype, Twitter, Spotify, and Snapchat.

[…]

At Privacy Lab, we’ve studied the data from Exodus output, providing insight into the origin of advertising trackers, the companies behind them, and their surveillance practices. Network activity originating from these Android apps crosses multiple countries and legal jurisdictions.

Lack of transparency about the collection, transmission, and processing of data via these trackers raises serious privacy concerns and may have grave security implications for mobile software downloaded and in active use by billions of people worldwide.

More than 75% of the 300+ apps analyzed by Exodus contain the signatures of trackers, though this data does not tell the whole story. There is an entire industry based upon these trackers, and apps identified as “clean” today may contain trackers that have not yet been identified.

Tracker code may also be added by developers to new versions of apps in the future. The Exodus platform identifies trackers via signatures, like an anti-virus or spyware scanner, and thus can only detect trackers previously identified by researchers at the time of the scan.

For this reason, new trackers will be added as the software is developed, and apps should continue to be scanned over time. Privacy Lab urges the information security community to help expedite this process.

Thanks to the hard work of the Exodus team, a simple Web-based interface can peer into this worldwide market of approximately 3.3 million apps and reveal to the public the “open secret” of clandestine trackers.

The researchers from Yale went on to call for increased transparency from the app developers as well as from Google themselves considering that the internet giant is the company in charge of the app store in the first place.

Sadly, one can rightfully assume that this will play out in the mainstream media for a few days (if that) and then completely disappear while the companies involved with give lip service to transparency and then go right back to secretly (and possibly illegally) tracking anyone who downloads their applications or uses their service.

Only when the public, in mass, stops using technology that uses these hidden trackers will the companies ever actually change the way they do business.

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Contributed by Alex Thomas of The Daily Sheeple.

Alex Thomas is a staff writer and reporter for The Daily Sheeple. Wake the flock up – follow Alex’s work at our Facebook or Twitter.

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  • elbustaroyjetspeekerson

    My, my! How….how….SHOCKING! Wow, we sure didn’t see THAT one coming! Holy cow! I had no idea. Is my sarcasm evident enough NOW??

  • Phil_Ossifer

    In other breaking news, the sun rose in the East this morning and Soylent Green is made of people. Seriously…why would anyone NOT think a cellphone app wasn’t reporting everything you do with your cellphone? Big Brother’s appetite for information on the sheeple grows larger every day. For our own good, of course.

    • elbustaroyjetspeekerson

      “….and now, for sports: Here’s a partial score, San Francisco 27! And in our Weather Room: Tonight’s forecast will be dark, with scattered light in the morning. Now, back to you, Phil!”….

  • SP_88

    Somebody should make a small faraday cage that your phone fits in so it cannot send or receive data if you don’t want it to. But people are so used to having a phone with them everywhere they go, and such a phone case would also prevent you from getting phone calls. Of course you could just take it out if you need to call someone. But none of the apps would have a clue where you had been since the last time you took out your phone. And you could always get a second cell phone with no apps so people can reach you. Maybe a cheap flip phone with no ability to track you. That way you can have your fancy iPhone or Samsung, hide it in the faraday cage while you are going about your business so you can’t be tracked, and use the flip phone in case someone needs to reach you.
    If you are at work or at home, who cares if it tracks you, anyone can get your home address, and it’s not hard to figure out where you work. But at least you can stop it from knowing everywhere you go.

  • tscull

    Why is this such a “shock”?

  • Steven Deakins

    I use Trip Adviser and it has a not so hidden feature. It tracks ALL your trips. And, you have to go into settings to turn this off.

  • TrevorD

    “Shock Report”
    To whom exactly?

  • Alleged-Comment

    Cookies track you on the Internet, too. They said one cookie from one site tracks you all over where you go to other sites.

    You have to either use no cookies, or clean them after every session. But it may mean constant re-logs and inconvenience using sites.

  • Billy Sharpshooter

    I have so many accounts, hundreds of profiles, passwords, 10 devices, no, 11, forgot to include my desktop (all the others are portable). I upgrade every year and hate to throw things away. I use just as many, if not more, public computers.
    If I cannot keep track of my online presence myself then how can a spook?
    Then when I forget a password I just open a new account. Password reset is too fiddly for me.
    I currently have 9 email addresses. But probably more like 19 if you include the ones I forgot the passwords for.
    In other words it would be nice if the NSA could help me over this one.
    I have also lost access to a Lastpass account so I didn’t get on too well with a tool that is meant to help, not hinder.
    Feeling overwhelmed 😦

  • Billy Sharpshooter

    Further. I have had about 10 Facebook accounts using real name over the past 10 years. FB asked me for my passport after some snotty nosed snowflake made a report. The same thing has happened to just about everyone I know on FB. The ‘Morality Police’ were closing in.
    I have had double that, about 20 fake accounts for games like FarmVille, posting controversial and political stuff you don’t want your boss, grandmother and church pastor to see LOL, research accounts, accounts for just fun and exploration.
    There is no way ANYONE could collect a dossier bringing together a mega file of all I have done online with my iphone in the last few years.
    At best they could cherry pick data to make an example of a bad boy full of too much lip. At worst they could realise the futility of said exercise and just live and let live.
    I rest my case.