Feeds

University boffins build snoop-spotting snitch app

Mobile tool detects when apps are pulling location data

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

University researchers have developed a smartphone app to show users how often their mobile software tracks their movements.

The team from Rutgers University said that the their Android tool uses a real-time monitoring system to show exactly when an application pulls locational information and transmits it. The results, they say, were eye-opening for many users.

"Our results confirm that the Android platform’s location access disclosure method does not inform participants effectively," the team wrote. "Almost all participants pointed out that their location was accessed by several apps they would have not expected to access their location."

To track the information, the researchers created a tool which logs and reports requests for access to user location information such as current and previous locations. When the application seeks permission to access the data, the research tool would inform users via an alert.

While many Android applications provide various ways of informing the user of locational tracking, such as the presence of a menu icon, the researchers argue that their tool demonstrates that many users do not properly notice or understand what the icons mean.

To prove their point, the Rutgers team offered results of a campus experiment which placed users with the tracking notification software against Android users without the tool. Results of the test, they say, showed that the users with the alert tool were better informed about application tracking behaviors and were more likely to understand how individual apps were handling their data.

That the additional tools are needed to properly understand what applications are doing is an indictment of the way Android handles locational tracking, say the researchers.

"Our work confirms the existing research literature that Android permissions are not an effective method for disclosing and consenting for location data access," the Rutgers team said of its findings.

"Our results showed that the existing location access disclosure mechanism on the Android platform, the flashing GPS icon, was not effective to inform users of apps’ location accesses. Nearly all participants in the two groups had some apps they did not expect to access their location."

The team hopes that the work will serve as an eye-opener to both users and developers about the need for better privacy management and reporting tools. They noted that in addition to better reporting of tracking access, users should be offered additional controls on when and how their mobile applications can access their locational data.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Why has the web gone to hell? Market chaos and HUMAN NATURE
Tim Berners-Lee isn't happy, but we should be
Mozilla's 'Tiles' ads debut in new Firefox nightlies
You can try turning them off and on again
Microsoft boots 1,500 dodgy apps from the Windows Store
DEVELOPERS! DEVELOPERS! DEVELOPERS! Naughty, misleading developers!
'Stop dissing Google or quit': OK, I quit, says Code Club co-founder
And now a message from our sponsors: 'STFU or else'
Apple promises to lift Curse of the Drained iPhone 5 Battery
Have you tried turning it off and...? Never mind, here's a replacement
Uber, Lyft and cutting corners: The true face of the Sharing Economy
Casual labour and tired ideas = not really web-tastic
Linux turns 23 and Linus Torvalds celebrates as only he can
No, not with swearing, but by controlling the release cycle
prev story

Whitepapers

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup
Learn why inSync received the highest overall rating from Druva and is the top choice for the mobile workforce.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.