Smartphones are amazing and have changed our lives for the better. We can do tons of things with them that you probably never dreamed of a couple decades ago. What makes these handy gadgets so special are the millions of available apps.
A great example is the ability to have face-to-face conversations with anyone, anywhere in the world with apps like Skype and FaceTime. Unfortunately, many of the apps that you use are spying on you without your knowledge.
You won't believe how these popular apps are tracking your every move.
Are apps secretly tracking you?
In this age of personalized ads and online user profiling, we are understandably concerned about the digital tracks we are leaving behind. Your browsing and search habits get collected, cataloged, analyzed and you become a statistic - an alphanumeric code to be processed by an algorithm.
The "personal" in personalized ads is actually quite an impersonal process - your details are just data bits and pieces that get crunched to make marketing more efficient.
Online behavioral advertising, which is also sometimes called "interest-based advertising," uses information gathered through your browser about your visits over time and across different websites. This helps predict your preferences and show you ads that are more likely to be of interest to you.
Now, it turns out that information about you is being gathered beyond your internet habits.
A recent study by Yale University's Privacy Lab and a French non-profit organization showed that nearly 75 percent of all Android apps are using software designed to secretly spy on you. Everything Android users do with their smartphones is being tracked to provide them with targeted ads.
The researchers analyzed more than 300 apps during the study. More than three-quarters of them contained signatures also found in tracking apps. Possibly the most surprising fact about the study is many of these apps are extremely popular and can be found in the Google Play Store.
Here are a few apps found to be tracking users:
Many users don't even know these apps are tracking them and that their personal information is being shared.
One of the researchers said, "Lack of transparency about the collection, transmission, and processing of data via these trackers raises serious privacy concerns and may have grave security implications for mobile software downloaded and in active use by billions of people worldwide."
This study was conducted on Android apps, but there's no guarantee that trackers like these are not also in apps for Apple gadgets. In fact, the researchers who conducted the study said, "Other software markets such as the Apple iOS store also have this deficiency, making app analysis and auditing difficult.
"Many of the same companies distributing Google Play apps also distribute via Apple, and tracker companies openly advertise Software Development Kits compatible with multiple platforms. Thus, advertising trackers may be concurrently packaged for Android and iOS, as well as more obscure mobile platforms."
It can seem creepy to have ads follow you around the internet, but some people think it's better to be shown ads for products that you're actually interested in. What do you think? Leave a comment and tell us your thoughts.