Mobile Applications and the Problem of Data Privacy

Google has sent several warnings to some app programmers on its Play Store, asking them to be more explicit with users about collecting and sharing their location data. And whoever does not comply, his application will be completely removed from the store.

  Google has targeted apps that are believed to have transacted with a UK-based company called Huq. It collects location data from users’ smartphones, and later sells it to those interested. It appears that Google has removed some of these applications.

 And what happened before from Google, after a previous press report revealed that some applications shared location data to users without their lips, even after users chose the opposite. The report indicated that the user may not be completely confident that his data is preserved and preserved, and that it is not shared.

 Huq claims that it collects and processes more than a million information about users’ locations every day, and this data is collected from about 161 countries around the world. The company later sells this information to a wide range of interested parties, such as government agencies, press websites, investors, or various companies. For example, the Financial Times previously bought from it user location data during the UK fuel crisis. The Financial Times then wanted to study the behavior of users going to gas stations.

  It is worth noting that Huq means application developers, and asks them to add some lines to application programs in exchange for a sum of money. These lines collect location data from smartphones containing the apps, and send it to Huq. This includes apps on both the Apple and Google Stores.

 The danger of the matter is that the target application segment is wide, and its purpose does not really reveal what is going on in smartphones, and in many cases, without the knowledge of the users themselves. Among these were the Network Signal Info app for studying transmission power, and the QR and Barcode Scanner app for reading QR code. Both apps have been downloaded more than five million times.

 Also, some Islamic apps have been cooperating with Huq, such as the Quran MP3 app developed by AppSourceHub. And a government app in the UK to monitor train times. The matter extended to a Spanish-language betting application, and an application for tracking aircraft movements in the air. Some of these apps have actually been removed by Google from its Play Store.

 Some of these apps were previously cooperating with Huq, and later discontinued this collaboration. However, its privacy policy still indicates that it does share location data with third parties.

 Google’s new campaign addresses an existing problem, which is that different applications share user data with third parties, and even sell the data. In many cases, the data was sold even though the user did not allow this action. The campaign stresses that all applications are now obligated to explicitly disclose the sharing of location data and request user permission, and any application that does not comply exposes itself to deletion. On the other hand, Apple has not yet commented on this campaign.

 The fundamental and most pressing question here is what can be done by us users? In simple words, download only necessary and trusted apps on phones, and check their privacy policies and permissions on the device. In case of doubt, delete the application immediately.