Data harvesting and sharing by mobile apps is “out of control”, University of Oxford researchers have warned.
Nearly 90% of free apps on the Google Play store share data with Google parent company Alphabet, the Financial Times reported.Google said it had clear policies for how developers could handle data, and that the research had mis-characterized some “ordinary functions” of apps.”If an app violates our policies, we take action,” the online giant said.
Many free apps track behavior across many different digital services, which let companies build up a detailed profile of people using the app.This data can include age, gender, location, and information about other apps on a smartphone.The data can then be used for a number of purposes including targeted advertising, credit scoring, or targeted political campaign messages, the researchers said in a paper. Revenues from online advertising are more than $59bn (£45bn) per year in the US alone, they said.
And many people are not aware how data flows from smartphones to advertising groups, data brokers and other intermediaries, Prof Nigel Shad bolt, who lead the research team, told the BBC. “People in businesses are desperate to get as many eyeballs and click-through as they can,” he said.
Researcher Max Van Kleek added: “I don’t think there’s any notion of control.”