Android Apps Caught Sending GPS Info to Advertisers

Discussion in 'Droid Forums Member News Depot' started by importune, Sep 30, 2010.

  1. importune
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    importune Theme Developer Theme Developer

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    "The results of a study conducted by researchers from Duke University, Penn State University, and Intel Labs have revealed that a significant number of popular Android applications transmit private user data to advertising networks without explicitly asking or informing the user. The researchers developed a piece of software called TaintDroid that uses dynamic taint analysis to detect and report when applications are sending potentially sensitive information to remote servers.

    They used TaintDroid to test 30 popular free Android applications selected at random from the Android market and found that half were sending private information to advertising servers, including the user's location and phone number. In some cases, they found that applications were relaying GPS coordinates to remote advertising network servers as frequently as every 30 seconds, even when not displaying advertisements. These findings raise concern about the extent to which mobile platforms can insulate users from unwanted invasions of privacy."


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  2. Hugh Jass
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    Hugh Jass Well-Known Member

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    This is open source and it's the risk we take, plain and simple.
  3. importune
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    importune Theme Developer Theme Developer

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    Of course it is a risk we take, that doesn't mean its right. These things still need to be addressed- personal data should not be shared with anyone that is not authorized, and I'd say my exact location at any given time is pretty personal. If they are caught, they should be stopped or held accountable for something like this.
  4. Darkseider
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    Darkseider New Member

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    Why does anyone really give a rats ass? It transmits GPS co-ordinates? Whoopedee do! Disable your GPS until you need it, which by the way is standard practice to conserve battery life. Phone number, IMEI, etc... ok, whatever floats their boat. It's not like I am getting called or for that matter having advertisers run up to me based on the GPS info sent. If anything this is no more than creating a demographic for advertisers, app developers, etc...
  5. pandroid
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    pandroid Theme Developer Theme Developer

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    actually, opensource prevents things like this. android is whats opensource. the apps that are developed for it, for the most part, are not.

    if an app is opensource, that means anyone can go in and see exactly what its doing. take a look at windows/osx. who knows how many backdoors it has, how much information its sending back to HQ about you usage/installed apps/etc.

    now take a look at linux, its opensource. we know exactly whats going on behind the scene. all you gotta do is take a look at the source code

    opensource for life!!!
  6. pandroid
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    pandroid Theme Developer Theme Developer

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    i for one dont want to be tracked for any reason. and turning off gps doesnt stop the app from hiding in the background and grabbing your coordinates when it IS on.
  7. Darkseider
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    Darkseider New Member

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    OK, and? I don't like to be tracked as much as the next guy but as long as your phone is on NO GPS and NO APPS running you can be tracked using service tower triangulation. While nowhere near as accurate as GPS tracking it can still place you to within a few hundred meters. This is true of smartphones and dumbphones. So in all reality the whole location tracking thing is pretty much pointless. Phone number and IMEI? Meh. Call me, that's what a blacklist is for.
  8. pandroid
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    pandroid Theme Developer Theme Developer

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    you just proved my point. turning off GPS wont do anything if the app can use triangulation. are you going to turn off GPS and CDMA/GSM when opening apps. and then keep an eye on all your running apps making sure nothing is running in the background when you dont want it to?

    as i said, i dont want to be tracked. and apps that do, need to be exposed. its a shame the people which did this study didnt post a list of 'phone home' apps
  9. dbn
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    dbn New Member

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    Short of taking the battery out of the phone, there is no way to stop someone from tracking you if they want to.
  10. Darkseider
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    Darkseider New Member

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    Well said. Nothing could be more true. Regardless if the app phones home or if it reads a log, etc... The MOMENT you turn your phone on and wireless communication of any kind is established you're done. Do you honestly for one minute think that by stopping these 30 phone home apps this will stop tracking? It really is a null and moot point. Do you drive a car and use EZ-Pass? If so guess what. You're being tracked. Do you use an ATM card or credit card? You're being tracked AND video taped. You posting on this website allows me to grab your IP, trace it to the ISP and at a minimum get a state and with a little digging the county you are in.
  11. importune
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    importune Theme Developer Theme Developer

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    Wow people, the point isn't rather or not they can, or rather or not it's practical to stop them ourselves, the point is that it is a violation of privacy to do so. Tapping phone lines is illegal, as this should be. It doesn't mean its impossible to do, or even difficult, it simply means it is wrong.
  12. pandroid
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    pandroid Theme Developer Theme Developer

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    double post... oops
  13. pandroid
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    pandroid Theme Developer Theme Developer

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    all apps should be tested to see if they phone home. i guess thats a big task, but at least they should provide that taintdroid app so people who are worried can test there apps themselves. then maybe make an option to upload the results to a server and compile a list of safe/unsafe apps

    luckily. im in a country with no CDMA, so i cant call using my droid. my gps doesnt work here either. and my other cellphone sits at home. ive have no ez-pass or credit card. as for my IP, you could get my city i guess. but i could always go through hotspot shield, tor and several proxies... but thats taking it too far. i dont have anything to hide but nevertheless i dont want to be tracked

    i think im safe... for now:)

    moral of the story... dont trust technology if your hiding something
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2010
  14. dbn
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    dbn New Member

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    Privacy laws vary from state to state and country to country. In some states it would be completely legal for me to record a conversation without notifying the other party, for example.

    If you belong to a social network or an online forum, you should assume that the information you enter on those sites is being sold to advertisers along with queries you enter into a search engine.

    If you take your internet security seriously, then you should put in the time to research the solutions instead of relying on someone else to do it for you.
  15. importune
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    importune Theme Developer Theme Developer

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    Wow, again. I'm not saying that this is an outrage- I'm saying its morally wrong.
  16. brochaos
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    brochaos New Member

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    when you first setup the phone, one of those first screens makes a comment about sending gps information etc. in fact, google maps uses our gps info to generate the traffic layer. so even if these 3rd parties aren't allowed to, google still can.
  17. Hugh Jass
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    Hugh Jass Well-Known Member

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    Bro, Google maps uses your GPS all the time, has nothing to do with any layer.

    As for open source making thing secure, no. Look at apple, they screen each and every app for approval where as Google says "let-er rip!" and waits for people to complain before removing apps, no preventative investigation. So going the open source way with Android and the Android market means that we are far far more prone to this kind of malicious potential than a locked down system. It's something we just have to deal with to get the kind of freedom we have. Frankly I don't mind at all...
  18. BayouFlyFisher
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    BayouFlyFisher Rescue Squad Rescue Squad

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    So ya'll are saying that people, other than my family, knows I spend all day sitting in my recliner!!!??? :icon_ banana:
  19. cereal killer
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    cereal killer DF Administrator Staff Member

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    Ohhhhhhhhh.......no wonder. We were having a discussion in the mod forum wondering if you were alive since you haven't moved in hours.

    Oh wait....

    Seriously!!. Dude come on I was joking!!!!!

    There's no need to move out of your chair and go to the kitchen. Seriously man we can't see anything!!!....

    Sent from my Droid
  20. pandroid
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    pandroid Theme Developer Theme Developer

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    people are throwing the word "open source" around the wrong way.

    open source means that the 'source' code of the software is freely available. that means anyone can gander at the underlying code of a program and see exactly what its doing. is it calling home with private info or is it doing exactly what it advertises. not only that, but anyone can take that code, change it and develop the application further resulting in a massive increase in innovation and advancement and a massive decrease in malevolence. look at how many virii linux has vs windows/mac. yes mac has virii. open source also makes knowledge free. which im a big believer in

    ANDROID is open source. thats why we are graced with so many source built roms that outshine stock android..

    apple has a strict approval process but i still see articles online every once in a while about some malicious iP** app that fell through. not only do bad apps still fall through, this gives apple the right to disallow anything they want. this power, they are KNOWN for using. its like your government telling you which sites you can and cant visit or which books you can and cant read

    anyways. i just want people to understand opensource. because in my point of view, its much more than that. its a philosophy, it promotes growth, innovation, variety and can even bring forth a revolution
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2010
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