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Android App Warns When You’re Being Watched

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Friday, 31 January 2014 21:14 Written by DFM Team

A new app notifies people when an Android smartphone app is tracking their location, something not previously possible without modifying the operating system on a device, a practice known as “rooting.”

The new technology comes amid new revelations that the National Security Agency seeks to gather personal data from smartphone apps (see “How App Developers Leave the Door Open to NSA Surveillance”). But it may also help ordinary people better grasp the extent to which apps collect and share their personal information. Even games and dictionary apps routinely track location, as collected from a phone’s GPS or global positioning system sensors.

Existing Android interfaces do include a tiny icon showing when location information is being accessed, but few people notice or understand what it means, according to a field study done as part of a new research project led by Janne Lindqvist, an assistant professor at Rutgers University. Lindqvist’s group created an app that puts a prominent banner across the top of the app saying, for example, “Your location is accessed by Dictionary.” The app is being readied for Google Play, the Android app store, within two months.

Read on at MIT Technology Review

 
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