Your smartphone could be secretly tracking every move you make online in order to send you ridiculous amounts of ads. Though you never signed up for it and really don't want to use up your precious data plan receiving targeted ads, your apps are doing it anyway. Not good.
Luckily, researchers at Cornell are working on a new tool that can spot those apps so you can stop them. It's called NoSuchApp, and while it's still a prototype, it "monitors traffic and compares URLs silently requested by apps to a list of known ad-serving and user-tracking domains."
The Google Play Store has more than 1.2 million apps, so needless to say, there are plenty of chances for your smart phone to be corrupted by "bad actor" apps, the main source of the problem.
During the testing process, the researchers examined and tracked the online traffic coming from 1,710 apps. The results are concerning.
"The results presented thus far clearly indicate that applications on the Google Play Store often connect to destinations that are not essential for the operation of the app itself," the researchers wrote. "Furthermore, much of this communication is completely hidden from users."
The researchers behind NoSuchApp haven't yet released the names of these troubled apps to the public. However, they say they will eventually make a master list, which would be a crowdsourced "app reputation system."
In the meantime, there's little you can do. The developers plan to make their list public in the near future, so stay tuned to what's Happening Now and I'll give you the list as soon as I get my hands on it.