Mobile App Data Sharing is 'Out of Control'

Data harvesting and sharing by mobile apps is out of control, according to The University of Oxford

Researchers at the University of Oxford have warned that data harvesting and sharing by mobile apps is out of control.

The Financial Times reported that more than 88% of free apps on the Google Play store share data with Alphabet, Google’s parent company.

This data, often containing details of age, location and information about other apps on a smartphone, is passed to third parties to use for several purposes including targeted advertising and political campaigns.

Speaking to the BBC, the leader of the research team, Prof Nigel Shadbolt, reported that a large number of people are simply not aware of how their data flows from their smartphones to external parties such as advertising groups and data brokers.

He said: “People [in business] are desperate to get as many eyeballs and click-throughs as they can.”

Researcher Max Van Kleek added: “I don’t think there’s any notion of control.”

It was reported that significant percentages of the apps in question share data with Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Amazon firms and, shockingly, news apps and apps aimed at children share information with the largest number of trackers.

Google has disagreed with the methodology of the study and believes that the research has mischaracterised some ‘ordinary functions’ of their apps.

Google said: “Across Google and in Google Play we have clear policies and guidelines for how developers and third-party apps can handle data and we require developers to be transparent and ask for user permission. If an app violates our policies, we take action.”

Campaigners have said that it has become impossible for the average user to understand how their data is being used and companies are only concerned with maximising profit irrespective of if this violates peoples’ fundamental rights.

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