comscore Here's how smartphone apps extract sensitive data using location feature
News

Study shows how smartphone apps extract sensitive data via location tracking

A recent study has revealed that certain apps use the phone's location tracking feature to extract sensitive data and personal information.

Smartphone-app-location

As more smartphone users join the existing sea of smartphones users across the globe, only a few are aware of the risks that come along with the gizmo. A recent study has found that granting permissions and access to certain apps can lead to personal information being leaked via the phone’s location tracking feature. Also Read - Almost 5,000 Indian mobile users are stalking their partners using spyware: Report

This is the first extensive study that sheds light on a range of personal information that can be extracted using the location tracking ability of the phone. Also Read - Pakistan-based hackers behind the recent Airtel data leak: Report

The study by two researchers from the University of Bologna in Italy and the University College London in the UK also shed light on how the collection of such data is a violation of the users’ privacy. Also Read - Safer Internet Day 2021: Here's how you can ensure your online security

How do apps extract sensitive data?

In order to test this out, the researchers developed a mobile app – TrackingAdvisor – that collects user’s location data continuously.

From the same data, the app was able to extract personal information and ask users to provide feedback on the legitimacy of the information as well as to rate its relevance in terms of privacy sensitivity.

“Users are largely unaware of the privacy implications of some permissions they grant to apps and services, in particular when it comes to location-tracking information”, said Mirco Musolesi from the University of Bologna.

What information do the apps collect?

Using machine learning, the app and other tools provide sensitive information such as the home address of users, their habits, demographics, interests and information about their personalities.

Through the app, researchers were also able to identify what kind of personal information the app extracted and its privacy sensitivity according to users. The study was conducted on 69 users for at least two weeks.

The TrackAdvisor app tracked more than 2,00,000 locations, identifying almost 2,500 places and then collecting approximately 5,000 pieces of information concerning both personality and demographics.

Among the data that was gathered, researchers found that sensitive information about health, socio-economic situation, ethnicity, and religion were also collected.

“We think it is important to show users the amount and quality of information that apps can collect through location tracking”, Musolesi added.

“Equally important for us is to understand whether users think that sharing information with app managers or marketing firms is acceptable or deem it a violation of their privacy”.

How can a tracking system like this be used?

Researchers said that the process of data extraction like this can be used to design and initiate a targeted advertising system.

“Thanks to such systems, users interested — for example – in protecting information about their own health could receive a notification each time they go to a health clinic or hospital”, said Musolesi.

The study also sheds light on the development of a system that can automatically block the collection of sensitive data from third parties thanks to previously defined privacy settings, the authors noted.

For the latest tech news across the world, latest PC and Mobile games, tips & tricks, top-notch gadget reviews of most exciting releases follow BGR India’s Facebook, Twitter, subscribe our YouTube Channel.
  • Published Date: February 22, 2021 7:27 PM IST



new arrivals in india

Realme Narzo 30A
Realme Narzo 30A

8,999

Realme Narzo 30 Pro
Realme Narzo 30 Pro

16,999

Infinix Smart 5
Infinix Smart 5

7,199

Samsung Galaxy F62
Samsung Galaxy F62

23,999

Nokia 5.4
Nokia 5.4

13,999

Nokia 3.4
Nokia 3.4

11,999

Realme X7 Pro 5G
Realme X7 Pro 5G

29,999

Realme X7
Realme X7

19,999

Vivo Y31
Vivo Y31

16,490

Oppo Reno5 Pro 5G
Oppo Reno5 Pro 5G

35,990

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G

1,05,999

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus 5G
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus 5G

81,999

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G
Samsung Galaxy S21 5G

69,999

Vivo Y12s
Vivo Y12s

9,990

Vivo Y51A
Vivo Y51A

17,990

Samsung Galaxy M02s
Samsung Galaxy M02s

8,999

Xiaomi Mi 10i
Xiaomi Mi 10i

21,999

Oppo A15s
Oppo A15s

11,490

Tecno Spark 6 Go
Tecno Spark 6 Go

8,499

Vivo V20 2021
Vivo V20 2021

24,990

Vivo Y20A
Vivo Y20A

11,490

Xiaomi Redmi 9 Power
Xiaomi Redmi 9 Power

11,999

Motorola Moto G9 Power
Motorola Moto G9 Power

11,999

Motorola Moto G 5G
Motorola Moto G 5G

20,999

Vivo V20 Pro
Vivo V20 Pro

29,990

Xiaomi Mi 10T
Xiaomi Mi 10T

35,999

Xiaomi Redmi 9i
Xiaomi Redmi 9i

8,299

Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro
Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro

39,999

Infinix Hot 10
Infinix Hot 10

9,999

Vivo V20 SE
Vivo V20 SE

20,990

Vivo V20
Vivo V20

24,990

Micromax In 1b
Micromax In 1b

6,999

Micromax In Note 1
Micromax In Note 1

10,999

OnePlus 8T
OnePlus 8T

42,999

Samsung Galaxy F41
Samsung Galaxy F41

15,499

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

1,29,900

Apple iPhone 12 Pro
Apple iPhone 12 Pro

1,19,900

Apple iPhone 12 Mini
Apple iPhone 12 Mini

69,900

Apple iPhone 12
Apple iPhone 12

79,900

Poco X3
Poco X3

16,999

Realme Narzo 20A
Realme Narzo 20A

8,499

Realme Narzo 20
Realme Narzo 20

10,499

Realme Narzo 20 Pro
Realme Narzo 20 Pro

13,999

Oppo F17
Oppo F17

16,990

Samsung Galaxy M51
Samsung Galaxy M51

22,999

Poco M2
Poco M2

10,999

Oppo F17 Pro
Oppo F17 Pro

22,990

Realme 7 Pro
Realme 7 Pro

19,999

Realme 7
Realme 7

14,999

Xiaomi Redmi 9A
Xiaomi Redmi 9A

6,799

Vivo Y20
Vivo Y20

12,990

Xiaomi Redmi 9
Xiaomi Redmi 9

8,999

Nokia 5.3
Nokia 5.3

13,999

Motorola Moto G9
Motorola Moto G9

11,499

Realme C15
Realme C15

9,999

Realme C12
Realme C12

8,999

Samsung Galaxy Note 20
Samsung Galaxy Note 20

77,999

Xiaomi Redmi 9 Prime
Xiaomi Redmi 9 Prime

9,999

Oppo Reno4 Pro
Oppo Reno4 Pro

34,990

Samsung Galaxy M01 Core
Samsung Galaxy M01 Core

5,499

Realme 6i
Realme 6i

12,999

Asus Rog Phone 3
Asus Rog Phone 3

46,999

OnePlus Nord
OnePlus Nord

24,999

Infinix Smart 4 Plus
Infinix Smart 4 Plus

7,999

Xiaomi Redmi Note 9
Xiaomi Redmi Note 9

11,999

Samsung Galaxy M01s
Samsung Galaxy M01s

9,999

Vivo X50 Pro 5G
Vivo X50 Pro 5G

49,990

Vivo X50 5G
Vivo X50 5G

34,990

Realme C11
Realme C11

7,499

Poco M2 Pro
Poco M2 Pro

13,999

Realme X3
Realme X3

24,999

Realme X3 SuperZoom
Realme X3 SuperZoom

27,999

Tecno Spark Power 2
Tecno Spark Power 2

9,999

Oppo A12
Oppo A12

9,990

Oppo A52
Oppo A52

16,990

Samsung Galaxy A21s
Samsung Galaxy A21s

15,999

Oppo Find X2
Oppo Find X2

64,990

Motorola One Fusion Plus
Motorola One Fusion Plus

17,499

Samsung Galaxy A31
Samsung Galaxy A31

20,999

Samsung Galaxy M01
Samsung Galaxy M01

8,999

Samsung Galaxy M11
Samsung Galaxy M11

10,999

Infinix Hot 9 Pro
Infinix Hot 9 Pro

9,999

LG Velvet
LG Velvet

Price Not Available

Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Lite
Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Lite

Price Not Available

Apple iPhone SE 2020
Apple iPhone SE 2020

42,500

Honor 30 Pro
Honor 30 Pro

Price Not Available

Best Sellers