A recent report on the BBC website notes a study by researchers from Intel Labs, Penn State and Duke University which shows that “Some of the most popular apps written for Google’s Android phones do not tell users what is done with data they gather… . Half of 30 applications studied share location information and unique identifiers with advertisers”. Two-thirds of these popular third-party apps showed suspicious handling of personal data.
Information from the ‘phones was sent to advertisers without the users being told that data was being shared with them. As the BBC report goes on to note, “Some apps gathered and despatched location information even when an application was not running and some sent updates every 30 seconds.”
Whilst users should always be wary of downloading any apps that they do not necessarily trust, this seems to be yet another example of Google not being the fully trustworthy company that it would like people to believe it is. It would be a relatively simple matter to ensure that all users are automatically warned about this when software is downloaded. As the researchers conclude, “Android’s coarse-grained access control provides insufficient protection against third-party applications seeking to collect sensitive data”.
This is definitely a powerful reason why Android ‘phones should be avoided, and once again raises serious concerns about Google’s lack of ethical probity.