Friday, 20 July, 2018


Your smartphone could be recording your screen, claims study

Young man hides smartphone under sheets Research shows Facebook (probably) isn’t listening through your phone
Melba Vasquez | 05 July, 2018, 23:25

But they did find that some apps were sending screen recordings and screenshots to third parties.

"We find that several apps leak content recorded from the camera and the screen over the internet, and in ways that are either undisclosed or unexpected given the objective of the app", the researchers concluded.

The researchers tested over 17,000 of the most popular Android apps, including some of Facebook's, and found that more than half of those had permissions to access the device's camera and microphone, The Verge reported.

For the a year ago, researchers at Northeastern University and the University of California, Santa Barbara, have been experimenting on 17,000 of the most popular Android apps to figure out whether any of them are secretly using your phone's microphone to record you. The study involved all the apps that Facebook owns, and 8,000 other apps that send information to Facebook. "This can occur without needing any permissions from the user". Howevever, the study explicitly noted its limitations and doesn't definitively state that phones never record its users. Several apps were seen taking screenshots and recording screen videos covertly of what people were doing in-app, and sending it to third-parties without any permission from the user. For example, when one of the phones used an app from GoPuff, a delivery start-up for people who have sudden cravings for junk food, the interaction with the app was recorded and sent to a domain affiliated with Appsee, a mobile analytics company.

There's good news and bad news. The video included a screen where you could enter personal information-in this case, their zip code.

While it might be common practice for developers to use analytics companies to monitor and improve app performance, GoPuff's privacy policy makes no mention of it.

After GoPuff was informed by the researchers, it promptly added a disclosure stating, "AppSee might receive users PII (personally identifiable information)". "After reviewing the researchers' findings, we determined that a part of AppSee's services may put some developers at risk of violating Play policy".

In response, Appsee stated that GoPuff was at fault and they have "disabled tracking capabilities for the mentioned app and purged all recordings data from our servers". Users should also read through privacy policies as often as they can for sneaky statements about what data is gathered.

The Northeastern University team will present their work at a privacy symposium in Barcelona next month.

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