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Android Privacy Communications Handhelds Security

The App That Tracks Who's Tracking You 52

Posted by timothy
from the perfect-disguise-for-a-backdoor dept.
Daniel_Stuckey writes "It's no secret that apps like maps or local weather know your current location, and you're probably cool with that because you want to use the handy services they provide in exchange. But chances are there are many other apps on your phone, anything from dictionaries to games, that are also geolocating your every move without your knowledge or permission. Now researchers are developing a new app to police these smartphone spies, by tracking which apps are secretly tracking you, and warning you about it. Before your eyes glaze over at the mention of yet another privacy tool, it's worth noting that this new app is the first to be able to provide this line of defense between snooping apps and smartphone users for Android phones. Android's operating system is engineered not to allow apps to access information about other apps. But a team at Rutgers University found a way around that, by leveraging a function of Android's API to send a signal whenever an app requests location information from the operating system. MIT Technology Review reported on the research today."
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The App That Tracks Who's Tracking You

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  • by fche (36607) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @02:54PM (#46112677)

    Briefly reading TFA, these guys are analyzing people's reactions to various privacy-warning user interface options. Their baby app that heuristically monitors location-api usage is far less capable than xprivacy or its kin of android tools.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 30, 2014 @02:57PM (#46112719)

    Despite Google yanking App Ops out of Kit Kat in the latest update, you can still put it back in [].

    No need for Angry Birds to have access to your information. Simply limit what it can access and forget it.

  • Re:Allow blocking (Score:4, Informative)

    by pepty (1976012) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @03:23PM (#46112903)
    Google removed App Ops for versions in an update for 4.42. If you don't have a rooted phone, the closest thing I've found to a solution is Mobiwol, a firewall which forces apps to connect to the internet through a VPN that doesn't go anywhere. You can choose to give apps their access to the outside world whenever they have focus, so at least they only spy on you when you're using them. Then the problem is: should you trust Mobiwol?
  • Re:Android's policy (Score:5, Informative)

    by tlhIngan (30335) < minus math_god> on Thursday January 30, 2014 @03:32PM (#46112991)

    Or maybe, Android could deny approval of applications that try to seek location data for applications that have no location based function. Data mongering fuckers.

    Android doesn't already have this? I mean, iOS has been asking about location usage for ages, and has an option to disable location services for individual apps for a while now. (An interesting side effect is that access to stored photos ALSO brings up the location services question as photos may have geotags in them - so apps can't get around it by snapping photos and reading out the geotag information).

    And anyhow, you can always turn off location services on Android to keep apps from getting your location information.

    OTOH, one has to consider that to Google, Android is really there to prevent Apple from locking Google out of mobile advertising. It's why Google acquired Android and why they made it open-source. Google knows mobiles would be a big part of it (and mobile traffic is roughly 2:1 iOS:Android), and that Apple could easily strangle Google in this field, hence, Android.

    So perhaps it's all by design - Google's not wanting to give up mobile advertising. Sure they'll probably toss a bone or two - just enough to hobble mobile advertising competitors, but not Google's own advertising networks...

  • by JeanCroix (99825) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @03:42PM (#46113099) Journal
    Sounds like Xzibit pimped your phone...

"Mach was the greatest intellectual fraud in the last ten years." "What about X?" "I said `intellectual'." ;login, 9/1990