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High-profile apps use ‘clever tactics’ to trick users into sharing data

HIGH-PROFILE APPS use sneaky tactics to get users to share more information than they intend, according to a new report by Which?

Despite new regulations like the GDPR, Which? believes that the 29 popular iOS and Android apps that it tested follow the word of the law, but not its spirit.

“Some apps undermine your privacy by bundling multiple requests into a single option. Others hide their most privacy-friendly settings through sneaky design, and force users to accept advertising before they can even see who those advertisers are”, the publication notes.

These apps aren’t ‘My Virtual Tortoise’ or ‘Stamp Collector’, either: they are from big brands. Examples include Amazon (which appears to collect location data without asking); AccuWeather (which shares data with almost 200 partners); and Flo Period & Ovulation Tracker (which has password protection but doesn’t enable it by default).

Smartphones use a variety of sensors for tracking, including gyroscopes and GPS. Amazon is not the first company to be accused of using this data without asking permission: Google fell foul of complaints earlier this year when it was revealed that the firm tracks users even when they turn their location history off.

On top of the issues with data use, Which? highlights the lengthy word counts apps use in their terms and conditions. The total word count of the T&Cs and privacy policies across all 29 apps that the publication looked at came to 333,336: more than half the length of War and Peace.

On the plus side, all of the apps used encryption in some way – but that also makes it more difficult to know what they are doing with users’ data.

Which? used its report to again call for an investigation into the digital advertising market, which is worth more than £10 billion in the UK alone and is being driven by the proliferation of the internet and smart devices.

The publication is calling on the Competition and Markets Authority to conduct a study into how this market operates. µ

Further reading

Source : Inquirer

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