Researchers Create Android App That Shows When Other Apps Track You

Researchers Create Android App That Shows When Other Apps Track You

[Computer World]

IDG News Service – A team of researchers has developed an Android app to help people better understand when their location is being accessed, something that happens more often than people think.

“All apps that access location need to request permission from the Android platform,” Janne Lindqvist [cq], who led the research project, said via email. “The problem is that people don’t pay attention to these default disclosures.”

Android phones display a flashing GPS icon when apps are trying to access the user’s location. But few people notice or understand what the icon is telling them, the researchers found.

The app they developed is designed to fix that, by making it clearer to users when other apps are accessing their location data. They tried several methods, including a message that flashes on the device’s screen reading, “Your location is being accessed by [app name].”

There’s no obvious way in Android for an app to monitor whether other apps are accessing location, the researchers said, but they discovered they could exploit a method in the Android Location API as “an effective side channel.”

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