A new study has revealed that 90 per cent of all Android applications share personal data to Google, raising questions about the volume of information collected by ad-supported software and the ability for tech giants to create profiles of individuals.
Researchers at Oxford University looked at almost one million Android apps available on the Google Play store and found the median app shared user data with ten third parties and a fifth shared it with more than 20.
The researchers told the Financial Times that the popularity of ‘freemium’ applications supported by advertising and the rise of vast advertising networks meant that many people, and often app developers themselves, are unaware of the scale of this data harvesting.
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A new bill introduced in Congress, called the Secure Data Act, would prevent a government agency or a court order from forcing a manufacturer to add a backdoor to a device that offers encrypted communications. The bill has bipartisan support, and was introduced in the House by Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Ted Poe (R-TX), Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Ted Lieu (D-CA), and Matt Gaetz (R-FL).
The bill would give manufacturers of encrypted phones, tablets, computers and software (including apps like WhatsApp) protection from being forced to weaken the encryption on their products. Not only would it prevent a law enforcement agency like the FBI from forcing a phone manufacturer from providing it with back door access to their devices, it would also prevent a court order from doing the same thing. There is one exception as mentioned in the bill. That would be for requests and court orders having to do with wiretaps under the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act.
The Secure Data Act is a reaction to the battle between Apple and the FBI that took place in early 2016. The FBI was able to procure a court order demanding that Apple unlock the iPhon 5c that belonged to San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook. Apple ignored the order, saying that it would have to build a special version of iOS to unlock the device. Cook told law enforcement officials that he was reluctant to create this software, dubbed Govt.OS, for fear that it would be leaked. That would endanger the privacy of all iPhone users globally. As it turned out, the FBI paid to have the phone unlocked by a third party only to find not one shred of worthwhile information inside it.