Be careful what you download from the Google Play Store. Some Android apps are reportedly accessing the smartphone’s microphone to listen in on the users’ viewing habits. According to a report from the New York Times, some Android games have been doing this for quite a while.
The intrusive apps could hear what shows you like, what ads you’ve just watched, and what movies you enjoy. The Times found that there may be more apps which spy on us than we think, while everything is done behind customers’ backs.
Times investigators found that at least 250 games from the Play Store are tracking users and their viewing habits. These games include one piece of software produced by a firm called Alphonso. To make it legal, the apps include the monitoring thing in their description but under a ‘read more’ section.
However, most users fail to see that initial warning, so they install the app anyway. Usually, such apps ask permission to access the camera and microphone. One such app was Imobile Game Studios’ Endless 9*9 puzzle. Other apps want access to location. That Android game did admit that it was tracking users for their TV habits in a bid to better tailor advertising and TV content.
The disclosure, though, is hidden within the app’s settings, which means that users are not asked to agree on the practice in advance.
FTC Warned Against Android Apps that Spy on Users
The Federal Trade Commission had warned developers that they must notify users on their apps’ monitoring habits before users get to install the pieces of software on their phones. Users also need to learn why their data is being collected.
The FTC stepped in after several apps using SilverPush spied on users without their consent. At the time, the agency ruled that the disclosure needs to be made where users can see it, but, nonetheless, developers seem to completely ignore the guidance.
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