Report: Google Android Lets Apps Track You Regardless of Permissions

Leon Neal/Getty Images
Leon Neal/Getty Images

According to a recent study, Google’s Android operating system is allowing more than 1,300 apps to bypass system permissions controlling access to user data to track users without their knowledge.

ZDNet reports that a recent study by the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) claims that as many as 1,325 Android apps installed across 500 million Android devices have found methods to bypass the Android operating systems permissions system to continue to track users without their knowledge or consent.

ICSI researchers investigated 88,000 Android apps to determine if app developers were using covert channels to gather information about users which could be given to advertisers. One form of tracking could include accessing the shared storage on an SD card to obtain the devices IMEI number, information that should not be accessible by the app if the user had not given it “READ_PHONE-STATE” permissions.

Researchers found one software development kit by a Chinese ad firm called Salmonads which would write a file containing a device’s IMEI number to shared storage, giving other apps access to it. Chinese search giant Baidu used a similar method with eight different apps being found submitting data back to Baidu servers.

Serge Egelman, one of the paper’s authors told CNET, “Fundamentally, consumers have very few tools and cues that they can use to reasonably control their privacy and make decisions about it. If app developers can just circumvent the system, then asking consumers for permission is relatively meaningless.”

Egelman stated that Google and the FTC have been warned about these issues and they have been addressed in the new version of the Android operating system, Android Q, being released later this year.

Google competitor Apple took a shot at the tech company recently via a large billboard located opposite Google’s sister company, Sidewalk Labs, in Toronto, Canada. Sidewalk Labs has been criticized recently for plans to build a smart neighborhood along Toronto’s eastern waterfront which will include sensors throughout the town to track people and collect data.

“We’re in the business of staying out of yours,” the billboard reads. A photo of the billboard can be seen below:

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or email him at lnolan@breitbart.com

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