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Dozens of consumer-oriented apps were pulled from the Google Play Store after researchers discovered that they contained hidden codes intended to collect users’ personal data, including email addresses, phone numbers, precise locations and more.
Measurement Systems, the company behind the operation, pays developers to embed code in their software development kits – or SDKs. The Wall Street Journal Reports In exchange for adding invalid code to their software, developers will be financially compensated and will have access to the collected user data. The Panama-based company has also been linked to contractors involved in US security agencies’ cyber intelligence operations.
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The data-harvesting code was discovered by UC Berkeley researcher Serge Egelman and Joel Reardon of the University of Calgary, who detailed the annoying results in an app census blog post. Reardon breaks down how code works, what data is collected, and who receives it properly – all of which expose the level of user privacy violations in dozens of customer-oriented apps. In addition to personal information such as one’s email and phone number, Reardon highlights the ability to collect a user’s specific GPS location with “particularly scary” code, saying that “such a database could be used to run a service to view a person’s location history.” Can only be used to target their phone numbers or emails, and to target journalists, dissidents or political rivals, “Reardon wrote in a blog post.
The measurement system has denied all claims and, in a statement WSJ Through email, they called the allegations “false” and denied any connection to the US National Security Agency.
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Some of the coded apps are Speed Camera Radar, WiFi Mouse, QR and Barcode Scanner and Qibla Compass – Ramadan 2022, dozens more. Although Google has reportedly pulled the apps, there is code in the report, a spokesman said WSJ Once the prohibited code is removed they will be able to apply for reinstall.