Ever wonder why mobile apps require your personal data?

Most of the apps ask permission to access the user’s personal information such as name, age, gender, email address, current location, camera, microphone or even access to the messages and phone call logs.Several apps merge with social media so that the user can log into the app using their social media account with requiring password all the time.

Such permission allows the apps to collect user data from the social media account.

What does the Research say ?

 

Recently a detailed study by the University of Oxford says, Tech giants like Google and Facebook can fetch data from third-party apps after analyzing the code of 960k apps on the US and UK Google Play stores. The study reveals 88% of apps can provide data to Alphabet, Google’s parent company. The Financial Times was the first to spot this research.

Alphabet: 88.44%
Facebook: 42.55%
Twitter: 33.88%
Verizon: 26.27%
Microsoft: 22.75%
Amazon: 17.91%

Such information could possibly be shared via third-party apps might include age, gender, and location. The researchers believe these data can be used to prepare detailed profiles about individuals, which could include speculating shopping habits, political campaigning etc. It isn’t impossible to believe that our habits and lifestyle choices are being monetised  Revenues from online advertising are more than $59bn per year in the USA alone.

The study said the median app could transfer data to tracker companies, which could pass the data to firms like Google. News apps and apps targeted at children appear to be amongst the worst in terms of the number of third-party trackers. 

Remember Cambridge Analytica, a company that “uses data to change audience behaviour,” both commercially and politically, according to its website. Cambridge Analytica used the personal information of around 87 million Facebook users for the social media campaigning to target the voters during the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign thereby helping the election Donald Trump as per the reports.

Google responds

Sunder Pichai, Google CEO

Google has challenged the Oxford study and shown disagreement with the methodology and the findings of the study. Google claims to use such informations for solving like crash reporting and analytics. Google also says “we require developers to be transparent and ask for user permission. If an app violates our policies, we take action”

Responding to Google, researchers say that they are not claiming that all third-party tracking is unjustified, as crash reporting and analytics are useful tools for developers but Google offers third-party tracking capabilities for both purposes. However, their analytics tools are also often used by developers to measure the effectiveness of their targeted advertising.

Researchers also said,  “The ways in which Google, Facebook track people on the vast majority of apps they use is simply excessive. This is no longer about the need to collect data to show ‘relevant ads’ – this is about profit maximisation at the expense of people’s fundamental rights”.