Apps May Not Eavesdrop On You But They Record Screen Activities

Francisco Seco  AP

And the revelation can be considered quite heartening in that none of the apps tested have been found to be onto anything of that sort. Don't heave a sigh of relief yet, though, for they might be doing something equally sinister. From sleazy political apps gobbling up your social media data to apps illegally tracking children, there are all sorts of ways your phone can rat you out.

Smartphone users have long suspected that certain apps were listening to their conversations to better target advertisements to them.

Five researchers from Northeastern University in IL, who specialize in computer science, studied more than 17,000 popular Android apps - almost half of which were allowed access to a user's camera and microphone - over the past year.

While Facebook is pulling the plug on the three apps, the company still runs the most popular apps in the world, including its main social network with 2.2 billion users, along with Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp, each of which has more than 1 billion users. It was found that around 50 per cent of the apps had unauthorised access to the camera and microphone.

According to the researchers, GoPuff added a similar disclosure only after they were contacted to comment about it. Appsee, on the other, said they were clear in their terms of use that third-party technology should be disclosed by their customers, in this case, GoPuff.

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"We didn't see any evidence that people's conversations are being recorded secretly", Choffnes said. While such a scenario did not come to pass during the time of research using automated mechanisms, a different scenario is possible with human users.

The researchers titled their paper Panoptispy: Characterizing Audio and Video Exfiltration from Android Applications.

But the researchers did find at least one case in which an app sent screen recordings and screenshots to a third-party mobile analytics company. When experts wanted to know about it from GoPuff, they updated their privacy policy so that users' personal information identifiable can be collected.

Meanwhile, as per the report, Appsee believes that this is a slip-up on the part of GoPuff. It mentioned that there is no definitive claim that apps might never record our interactions but the proof for the same is yet to be found. "We're working closely with them to help ensure developers appropriately communicate the SDK's functionality with their apps' end-users".

In conclusion, mobile applications might not be listening in on what you say, they are watching every decision you make on a smartphone screen. These screenshots were also sent to third-party domains. The writer of the piece revealed how Facebook pop-up ads attempted to sell him cheap return tickets to Tokyo, soon after he discussed the prospect of a holiday in Japan with an iPhone in his pocket.

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