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New Android App Shows When Other Apps Track Your Location, Protecting Privacy

Jan 31, 2014 11:39 AM EST | By Staff Writer

A new Android app may just allow you to see if other mobile apps are tracking their location. In an effort to address privacy concerns, researchers have created an app that can be used to potentially help curtail this rise of privacy invasion.

Smartphone apps can provide users with useful ways to extend the capabilities of their smartphones. At the same time, though, they represent a way for others to track a person's location.

"All apps that access location need to request permission from the Android platform," said Janne Lindqvist, one of the researchers, in an email to Computerworld. "The problem is that people don't pay attention to these default disclosures."

The issue of apps tracking user's data isn't anything new. Yet in order to help curtail this rise in app tracking, the researchers created the new mobile app. The tracker app showed a notification on the screen that read "Your location is being accessed by [appname]." In addition, the tracker app gave a view of the app icon accessing their location and a map.

Tested on several Android phones, the researchers found that apps actually accessed users' locations much more frequently than expected. In fact, many participants in the study were surprised at the apps that accessed their location.

Currently, the researchers are in the process of readying their app for the Play Store. While it doesn't have a name yet, the working title is RutgersPrivacyApp. Once it's perfected, it's likely that there may be a way to better police which apps are accessing your location, which could help protect your privacy in the future.

The full study can be found here.

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