About twenty Android and iPhone applications said by Sensor Tower spy on users. A practice that violates the rules of the Play Store and the App Store. Most of them have since been removed from app stores.
Do you remember Facebook Onavo, the free VPN that was removed from the Play Store and the App Store after researchers discovered that it was spying on its users without their knowledge? It seems that the Sensor Tower editor has been reluctant to use the same method in some 20 free applications, all offering either ad blocking, VPN access, or a combination of both. In any case, this is revealed by an investigation by BuzzFeed journalists.
Once active, these applications could monitor all traffic and send data to the servers of Sensor Tower. According to BuzzFeed, these applications required the installation of a root certificate via a third-party site to hide their activity, which bypasses the restrictions in place on the App Store and the Google Play Store. At no time was the user informed of this data collection. Taken together these 20 apps are extremely popular with over 35 million downloads.
Sensor Tower, for its part, must collect personally identifiable or sensitive data such as passwords and user names:we take the rules of the very cool application stores and make a concerted effort to comply with them, in addition to any changes to these rules that occur from time to time.This story recalls that even free applications have an economic model. Their development and the maintenance of their server cost money, which must be found somewhere.
Read also: Mozilla unveils its own VPN for Android and Windows 10 $ 4.99 / month
In general, free VPN services, in particular, are one of the best ways to collect personal data, since all internet traffic goes through it when they are activated. It is therefore not recommended to use free VPN servers to protect your personal data. Here are 15 of the 20 applications affected by this siphon of personal data. Most of it has since been removed from two app stores:
- Adblock Mobile
- Free and Unlimited VPN
- Mobile data
- Adblock Focus
- WiFi Rocket
- Wi-Fi Booster
- Adblock Mobile 32 bit
- Adblock Mobile
- Wi-Fi Cheetah
- Adblock WuFu
- VPN hotspot
- Von VPN Proxy
- Wi-Fi Guard
If you have one of these applications and no longer wish to have your personal data collected, it is strongly recommended that you uninstall them.
A list of the apps. Only Luna VPN remains in the App Store as of now. Luna, Adblock, and Free and Unlimited VPN are still in the Play Store. Apple and Google continue to investigate. pic.twitter.com/CQ6jNinA1x
– Craig Silverman (@CraigSilverman) March 9, 2020