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.

banking otp services disruption

Representational image


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 60 percent of internet users in India fell prey to hacking in the last 1 year: 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 - Mobile cyberattacks on Indian firms up by 854% in 2021: 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 - Beware: This SMS attack can be potentially used by hackers to log in to your WhatsApp account

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. Also follow us on  Facebook Messenger for latest updates.
  • Published Date: February 22, 2021 7:27 PM IST



new arrivals in india

Realme 8i
Realme 8i

13,999

Realme 8s 5G
Realme 8s 5G

17,999

Xiaomi Redmi 10 Prime
Xiaomi Redmi 10 Prime

12,499

Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G
Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G

35,999

Samsung Galaxy M32 5G
Samsung Galaxy M32 5G

20,999

Vivo Y33s
Vivo Y33s

17,990

Realme C21Y
Realme C21Y

8,999

Vivo Y21
Vivo Y21

15,490

Realme GT Master Edition
Realme GT Master Edition

25,999

Realme GT 5G
Realme GT 5G

37,999

Itel A48
Itel A48

6,399

Motorola Edge 20
Motorola Edge 20

29,999

Motorola Edge 20 Fusion
Motorola Edge 20 Fusion

21,499

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3

84,999

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

1,49,999

Samsung Galaxy A12 (Exynos)
Samsung Galaxy A12 (Exynos)

13,999

Nokia C20 Plus
Nokia C20 Plus

8,999

Vivo Y53s
Vivo Y53s

19,490

Tecno Pova 2
Tecno Pova 2

10,999

Infinix Smart 5A
Infinix Smart 5A

6,499

Micromax In 2b
Micromax In 2b

8,999

Vivo Y72 5G
Vivo Y72 5G

20,990

Tecno Camon 17
Tecno Camon 17

12,999

Tecno Camon 17 Pro
Tecno Camon 17 Pro

16,999

Realme C11 2021
Realme C11 2021

6,999

Oppo Reno6 Pro 5G
Oppo Reno6 Pro 5G

39,990

Oppo Reno6 5G
Oppo Reno6 5G

29,990

Samsung Galaxy M21 2021
Samsung Galaxy M21 2021

12,499

OnePlus Nord 2
OnePlus Nord 2

27,999

Poco F3 GT
Poco F3 GT

27,999

Samsung Galaxy A22 5G
Samsung Galaxy A22 5G

19,999

Xiaomi Redmi Note 10T 5G
Xiaomi Redmi Note 10T 5G

13,999

Samsung Galaxy F22
Samsung Galaxy F22

12,499

Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite
Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite

21,999

Infinix Note 10 Pro
Infinix Note 10 Pro

16,999

Infinix Note 10
Infinix Note 10

10,999

Vivo Y73
Vivo Y73

20,990

OnePlus Nord CE 5G
OnePlus Nord CE 5G

22,999

iQOO Z3
iQOO Z3

19,990

Realme C25s
Realme C25s

9,999

Poco M3 Pro 5G
Poco M3 Pro 5G

13,999

Realme X7 Max 5G
Realme X7 Max 5G

26,999

Oppo F19
Oppo F19

18,990

Motorola Moto G40 Fusion
Motorola Moto G40 Fusion

13,999

POCO M2 Reloaded
POCO M2 Reloaded

9,499

OPPO A74 5G
OPPO A74 5G

17,990

Oppo A53s 5G
Oppo A53s 5G

14,990

Vivo V21 5G
Vivo V21 5G

29,990

Realme C25
Realme C25

9,499

Realme C21
Realme C21

7,999

Realme C20
Realme C20

6,799

Motorola Moto G60
Motorola Moto G60

17,999

iQOO 7
iQOO 7

31,990

Samsung Galaxy M42 5G
Samsung Galaxy M42 5G

21,999

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra

69,999

Xiaomi Mi 11X Pro 5G
Xiaomi Mi 11X Pro 5G

39,999

Xiaomi Mi 11X
Xiaomi Mi 11X

29,999

Realme 8 5G
Realme 8 5G

13,999

Samsung Galaxy F02s
Samsung Galaxy F02s

8,999

Samsung Galaxy F12
Samsung Galaxy F12

10,999

POCO X3 Pro
POCO X3 Pro

18,999

Realme 8 Pro
Realme 8 Pro

17,999

Realme 8
Realme 8

14,999

Vivo X60 Pro Plus
Vivo X60 Pro Plus

69,990

Vivo X60 Pro
Vivo X60 Pro

49,990

Vivo X60
Vivo X60

37,990

OnePlus 9 Pro 5G
OnePlus 9 Pro 5G

64,999

OnePlus 9R 5G
OnePlus 9R 5G

39,999

OnePlus 9 5G
OnePlus 9 5G

49,999

Samsung Galaxy A72
Samsung Galaxy A72

34,999

Samsung Galaxy A52
Samsung Galaxy A52

26,499

Micromax In 1
Micromax In 1

10,499

Asus ROG Phone 5
Asus ROG Phone 5

49,999

Samsung Galaxy M12
Samsung Galaxy M12

10,999

Motorola Moto G30
Motorola Moto G30

10,999

Motorola Moto G10 Power
Motorola Moto G10 Power

9,999

Oppo F19 Pro Plus 5G
Oppo F19 Pro Plus 5G

25,990

Oppo F19 Pro
Oppo F19 Pro

21,490

Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro Max
Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro Max

18,999

Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro
Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro

15,999

Xiaomi Redmi Note 10
Xiaomi Redmi Note 10

11,999

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

Samsung Galaxy A12
Samsung Galaxy A12

12,999

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

Best Sellers