For most of the mobile Android applications, advertisements are the largest source of revenue. Many of them run full-screen advertisements intermittently or housing banners at the bottom of the screen. Six of the applications that were found on Google’s Play Store have now been removed for illegally abusing these services. Users who are using those applications must quickly uninstall them if they wish to preserve data, battery and system resources.
A joint investigation was conducted by Buzzfeed and security firms Checkpoint, Method Media Intelligence and ESET. The investigation revealed that six of the applications from the Chinese publisher DO Global was secretly harvesting data from unwitting users. The applications like RAM Master, Smart Cooler, Total Cleaner, Selfie Camera, AIO Flashlight and Omni Cleaner have all been promoting advertisement clicks in the background, regardless of whether the applications are open or not.
Like many of the readers will be aware, some of the advertisements construct a digital fingerprint of the users consisting of their personal information that the system used and sometimes even its software. The collection of such data, without the awareness of the users, is a direct breach of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation and also Google’s terms of service. The search engine giant told Buzzfeed that it, “explicitly prohibits ad fraud and service abuse on Google Play” and has removed the applications from its store.
Meanwhile, the users who are already using the above mentioned Android applications, will have to manually uninstall them if they wish to maintain their privacy. Google said that the developers need to disclose the collection of personal data and only use permissions that are needed to deliver the features within the app. If any of the applications are found to be violating the policies, strict action can be taken and it can include banning the developer from being able to publish on Play. Some of the Android users argued that a simple removal of applications without proper punishment can encourage the developers to continue utilizing improper tactics to generate revenue.
Photo Credits: Android Police