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Apps Aren't Listening to You, But They Are Recording Your Screen

05 July 2018

While they found no evidence to suggest that phones are doing any eavesdropping on conversations, what they found instead was just as creepy.

As reported by Gizmodo, researchers Elleen Pan, Jingjing Ren, Martina Lindorfer, Christo Wilson, and David Choffnes studied more than 17,000 apps, including ones from Facebook and those that send information to Facebook, to see if any of them were capturing audio via Android phone microphones.

The year-long study looked at several thousand apps and whether they were secretly using the phone's microphone to record audio. The apps included Facebook and over 8,000 apps that send information to the social media giant. On the bright side, the researchers "found no evidence" that apps are sneakily snooping in on your conversations. But they did find that some apps were sending screen recordings and screenshots to third parties.

The National Security Agency is deleting millions of phone call and text records it wasn't authorized to keep; chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge reports from Washington. While such a scenario did not come to pass during the time of research using automated mechanisms, a different scenario is possible with human users.

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But the researchers did find at least one case in which an app sent screen recordings and screenshots to a third-party mobile analytics company. And most of these apps' users are completely unaware of this breach of privacy as there was no mention of any such activity in the app's privacy policy. However, AppSee claims that GoPuff should have informed its end-users way beforehand that its data was recorded and sent to us for analytical and performance optimisation purposes. After being contacted by the researchers, GoPuff updated its privacy policy to specifically mention Appsee being handed over Personally Identifiable Information (PII). Blaming the food delivery service for misusing Appsee's technology, the firm said that the tracking abilities have been disabled and all recordings data have been purged from its servers.

Google Play notes that all apps are required to "post a privacy policy that, together with any in-app disclosures, explain what user data your app collects and transmits, how it's used, and the types of parties with whom it's shared".

In conclusion, mobile applications might not be listening in on what you say, they are watching every decision you make on a smartphone screen. So don't be surprised if you find Facebook ads reading your mind. And this is being sent to third-party entities.

Apps Aren't Listening to You, But They Are Recording Your Screen