The NSA and GCHQ have been trying to find ways to take advantage of apps that collect personal info about uses, such as their location, age, gender and more, according to the latest reports. Google Maps were specially singled out as being a useful way to track users’ locations. Research by security firm Bitdefender for its permissions management app Clueful, found that a large proportion of smartphone apps access more data than they need to, and are potentially leaking that information.
The company studied thousand of apps in the Google Play store, the official market for Android devices, and Apple’s App Store, and discovered that around a third of Android apps and half of iOS apps can track your location. One in 20 of the apps that Bitdefender looked at were able to find and view private photos stored on devices, and one in 30 could share email addresses. One in 100 had the ability to read contact lists.
Clearly, such capabilities are necessary for some apps – for example, a photo – editing app needs to be able to find and alter images. But, according to the report, many of the permissions are above and beyond what’s needed by the app to function, and many apps are accessing information such as your location, call log or more without your consent.
Most android apps ask for your permission to access different types of data when they are being installed, but it’s easy to ignore those warnings. To make things clearer, researches at Rutgers University are working on an app that will display a warning in other apps, such as “Your location is being accessed by Dictionary”. It isn’t yet available, but is expected to arrive in Google Play within the next couple of months.