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Every second Android app shares your data with third parties

Staff Writer
By Staff Writer, ITWeb
Johannesburg, 06 Sept 2022

One in two apps (55.2%) share users' data with third parties, and free apps share on average seven times more data points than paid apps.

This was revealed by a new study from data removal company Incogni, which researched the privacy and security practices of the top 1 000 apps available on the Google Play Store. The study common belief that free apps aren’t free  people pay with their data.

The worst category in terms of data-sharing is 'shopping', where apps share an average of 5.72 data points. In addition, social media apps collect the most data (19.18 data points collected), yet they declare that they share only three data points on average.

“Whether social media apps are completely transparent remains to be researched,” says Incogni.

In addition, 4.9% of apps admit to not encrypting data in transit, which makes users’ personal information vulnerable to security breaches. Less than half declare that their data is encrypted in transit, and a mere 0.8% went through an independent security review.

One in ten apps on Google Play declare outright that the personal data they collect cannot be deleted, and only 39% of apps actually provided a way for a user to request data removal.

Incogni says what may be even more concerning is that many apps share users' location history. Some 13.4% of apps share approximate location while 3.85% share the precise location. Even apps marketed as 'safety and security tools' sometimes might share a precise location of a user, the company said.

Darius Belejevas, head of Incogni, says data sharing exposes users to a slew of dangers such as identity theft, stalking, and online harassment. “Many Internet users can also find themselves victims of digital redlining, a phenomenon that is similar to profiling and discrimination in the real world.” 

Methodology

The study is based on Google Play’s data safety section, which was first introduced in April 2022 as a way to help people understand what apps collect and share, as well as showcase apps’ key security practices.

This information helps users make more informed choices when deciding which apps to install.

App developers independently declare how they collect and handle the data, which encompasses 37 different data points.

“We’ve collected information on the top 1 000 apps (top 500 free apps and top 500 paid apps) according to AppFigures. We then analysed the data in the 'data shared', 'data collected', and 'security practices' sections and ranked the apps from worst to best according to how many data points they collect and share,” says Belejevas.

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