Android App Warns When You’re Being Watched
Technology Review (01/30/14) David Talbot
Rutgers University researchers created an app that puts a prominent banner across the top of other apps, notifying users when their location is being tracked. Android phone users who used a prototype of this app were shocked to discover how frequently they were being tracked, notes Rutgers professor Janne Lindqvist. Nearly 20 percent of smartphone owners surveyed have tried to disconnect location information from their apps, and 70 percent wanted to know more about the location data collected by their smartphone, according to a recent Pew Research survey. The researchers hope to pressure app developers into providing more prominent disclosures, collecting less personal information, and allowing users to select which data they will allow the app to see. The researchers gained information about other apps by utilizing a function within Android’s location application programming interface that signals when any app requests location information. “Because we know how ubiquitous [National Security Agency] surveillance is, this is one tool to make people aware,” Lindqvist says.