Can an Android App Secretly Track User’s Whereabouts?

Posted on Aug 13 2016 - 10:09pm by Pavithra Manisha

Are you an android user? Then you must be aware of the Android App privacy policy before you download any app from the Google Play Store.  Only when researchers analyse the scenario of privacy and security and come out with bizarre conclusions we ponder if our security is really being compromised? Though it may be bleak for novice users, there are quite a lot of things that one can do with your location and other details. Personal information can be very useful for business. Especially enterprises targeting specific sort of customers can find this very needful for their business needs. There are chances that because of your negligence you may be leaving trails about yourself just for an anonymous third party to access it.

Also see: Micromax Unite 4 Plus

Android App and Security Breaches 

Android app

Android app

This is not the first time that android users have confronted privacy breaches. It was just about three years ago, when the Federal Trade Commission charged the Brightest Flashlight app for Android for deceiving its users and transmitting the user’s location and ID to third parties without appropriate permissions from the user.

So much so, that android apps these days can be manipulated to lure your mobile phone and track your whereabouts, traffic patterns and other useful meta data without your consent. A new research shows that this is possible and that android users must be aware of such phoney apps.

Researcher from Northeaster’s Guevara Noubir built and android app and tested the possibility of android apps tracking user’s whereabouts. They used an algorithm that inserted data from the phone’s sensors into graphs of all the roads in the world. The algorithm was then applied to other simulated and real roadtrips and for each trip it was found that the system generated the likely paths taken. There was about a fifty percent chance that the actual path taken was one among the system generated.

It roughly costs just $25 for anyone to put an app on Google Play. As no one is screening these appss, there are possibilities that they may be malicious.  

When you download an app from the Google Play Store, the app may want to access sensitive user information like location. In that case the app must let the user know that the app is tracking the user’s location etc. But these days, the user agreements are so large and are also in small prints that they are considered needless and users overlook the process completely. This undesirable process thereon on goes to information leaks that users become aware of only later.

Android apps are a greater risk as these apps have access to the prime sensors housed in the phone that detect the device location, orientation and also the movements. All put together these sensors can provide hints and trace your routes you tend to take when you head to other places. It also reveals minute things like whether you carry your phone in your pocket or in a purse.

The Analysis

  • The researchers conducted two types of tests to assess the effectiveness:
  • They simulated drives and also got hands on the wheel and then collected measurements derived from the phone’s changing positions like angles, turns and trajectory.
  • They found out that there was a 50 percent chance that the actual path travelled was one of those generated.
  • By inferring the driving pattern one can easily figure out where the user lives or works. Thereafter it becomes easy to dig public databases and track down property tax records and then recover a lot of details through these.

Also see: What’s in the new smart homes?

Shield yourself

What is that you, as an android user should do henceforth?

  • Try not to install apps that are not investigated thoroughly
  • Ensure that apps aren’t running in the background without your knowledge
  • Uninstall apps that you don’t use frequently  

Get heard. What do you think you should do to save yourself from danger? Let us know by commenting in the section below.

About the Author

Pavithra Manisha found her way to feed the readers with the latest happenings in the world of technology in terms of news updates. Now catch all the updates instantly and join the discussions to enlighten your knowledge.

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