Android apps continue to be a privacy nightmare, with 1 in 2 apps on the Google Play Store sharing user data with third parties.
Google is under increasing pressure to improve Android app privacy, primarily in response to Apple’s app track transparency. Google introduced its own “Data Security” feature in October 2021, requiring developers to use it from the end of July 2022. Data security lets users know how developers use the data they collect.
Now that developers are required to disclose their data practices, Incogni reviewed 1,000 apps on the Play Store to see how data was used. The results were concerning, with 55.2% sharing user data with third parties. Some of the best-known apps have been the biggest perpetrators, despite claiming to collect the least amount of data.
See also: App permissions information returns to the Google Play Store
Incogni also found a major disparity between free and paid apps, with free apps sharing seven times more data than their paid counterparts. The same goes for popular apps, which share 6.15 times more data than less popular ones.
To no one’s surprise, social media apps collected the most data or 19.18 data points. Shopping apps were the worst for sharing data, with 5.72 data points.
Perhaps most concerning is the fact that 13.4% of apps share user location data, easily one of the most sensitive data points, with third parties.
Incogni also pointed out a major flaw in Google’s system, which is that it operates on the “honor system”. In other words, developers are trusted to be honest and transparent about what their apps are and aren’t collecting and sharing.
Incogni pointed out some of the biggest dangers with their findings:
Many apps share and even sell your data to third parties such as marketing agencies, data brokers, and other companies. Worse, more than half of these apps might not encrypt your data in transit, making data highly vulnerable to attackers if communications are intercepted.
Even the transfer of anonymous data – which is not considered “sharing” – can ultimately be harmful because it can be easily re-identified.
The risks associated with the proliferation of your personal information can be quite serious. Sharing data exposes users to dangers such as data breaches, identity theft, stalking and online harassment. Many Internet users may also find themselves victims of digital redlining, a phenomenon akin to profiling and discrimination in the real world.