Home News WSJ investigation: 99% of the iOS apps contained secret trackers

WSJ investigation: 99% of the iOS apps contained secret trackers

iOS apps

Apple prides itself on not selling iPhone user information to outside companies. The customer is not our product, it is the mantra often repeated by CEO Tim Cook. But this does not prevent the apps downloaded on an iPhone from the App Store using personal data. The Wall Street Journal reports today that two of its writers have decided to see what really happens with some apps installed from the App Store. This investigation began after one of the authors realized that an app called Curious World, based on the character of Curious George was gathering information about his son, including his name and his age, and sending the data to Facebook.

The CEO of Curious World accused the “rogue code in the app that was mistakenly sending this data” and stated that neither his company nor Facebook used the information. The Terms of Service of the Facebook state that it does not allow information to be collected on children under the age of 13 and, Apple reportedly is investigating this business.

But as we said, this led two journalists to review the 80 iOS apps promoted by the App Store as “Apps We Love“. 79 of these apps had third-party trackers that collected personal data for ads analytical and marketing purposes. The average app had four trackers installed. This data is sent to companies like Facebook, Google, and other companies. But iOS users could get good news from CEO Cook this Monday when Apple’s annual WWDC developers’ conference begins. The Journal states that someone close to the situation has learned that Apple will limit third-party monitoring in the apps available in the Kids category of the App Store. Before making a judgment on Apple’s plans, we must wait to know exactly what it intends to do.

This is not just a problem with iOS apps

While the curious app mentioned above showed that it contained seven third-party trackers, you may be surprised to learn that this does not violate any federal law. The Sephora app had ten third-party trackers, which according to the personal assistance company were created to improve the customer experience. The journal used special software that allowed one of the journalists to see how their personal data was collected, including their research under the term “depression“. A meditation app collected the writer’s IP address and sent the latitude and longitude of its location to a tracker’s servers three times over five minutes. The trucking company, called Glo, Inc., had an excuse like all of them. He said he needed the data to make sure it complied with regulations in different areas of the world.

Curious George

Some say that it’s okay to allow companies to use their data if you install a free version of an app instead of the premium version. After all, even developers need to eat. But that excuse doesn’t hold water; The Journal found no change when it was updated to the premium versions of the applications it was studying.

This is not a problem only for iOS. Android apps also monitor a user’s behavior. And the report says Android apps are worse when it comes to sending information on a device to developers and trackers. Even if you convert your personal data into nonsense by going to Settings => Privacy => Advertising and Advertising and toggling on Limit Ad Tracking, the trackers will use other information.

Data like the operating system you use, your IP address and your operator can be compared with anonymous information to track it.

You can also try to limit the amount of data collected by going to Settings => Privacy => Location services on your iPhone. Disable all the apps you don’t want to monitor every little move you make. Android users can do this by going to Settings => Security and Location.

Regardless of what Tim Cook announces Monday, it will certainly not be enough to stop all tracking. There is simply too much money involved for third parties to stop this behavior. But it could be the first step on a journey to cover hundreds and hundreds of miles.

(Via: The Wall Street Journal)

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