At least 17,000 Android applications are creating permanent records of your online activity for advertising purposes even when you ask for such information to be forgotten.
New research published by the International Computer Science Institute in California suggests that these apps are using your Advertising ID, alongside persistent identifiers which can be used for the purposes of ad personalization and targeting, in order to create fixed records of past and present user online activity without user consent.
As reported by sister site CNET, it appears that these mobile applications are violating Google’s policies on user tracking and advert monetization.
Google requires that developers and advertisers do not connect Advertising IDs to personally-identifiable information or device information including Android ID, IMEIs, SSAIDs, or MAC addresses.
In addition, Google stipulates that users who choose to opt out of ad personalization must be respected. However, according to the institute, developers are ignoring these rules en masse.
See also: Opening this image file grants hackers access to your Android phone
In total, roughly 17,000 Android applications are not only transmitting Advertising IDs, but other persistent identifiers. These elements, together, create a record of online activity which can be used to permanently connect an individual, their device, and online activity.
As a result, even should users reset their advertising preferences, the record will hold and their wishes will be ignored.
CNET: Facebook, FTC reportedly negotiating massive fine to settle privacy issues
The report lists 20 popular applications which appear to be violating Google policies, all of which have been downloaded over 100 million times — and some have passed the billion download mark.
These apps allegedly include Clean Master — which has been downloaded over one billion times — Angry Birds Classic, Audible, and Subway Surfers.
Flipboard was also listed, but the app developers responsible for the app told CNET the company does not use the Android ID for ad targeting.
“The problem with all of this is that Google is providing users with privacy controls but those privacy controls don’t actually do anything because they only control the ad ID, and we’ve shown that in the vast majority of cases, other persistent identifiers are being collected by apps in addition to the ad ID,” the researchers say.
TechRepublic: How to create a hidden admin account in macOS
The institute has reported the apps in question and has asked Google whether or not this emerging privacy issue is going to be tackled, but is yet to receive a response. Speaking to CNET, however, the tech giant said that action would be taken on “some” apps.
“We take these issues very seriously,” a Google spokesperson told ZDNet. “Combining Ad ID with device identifiers for the purpose of ads personalization is strictly forbidden. We’re constantly reviewing apps — including those listed in the researcher’s report — and will take action when they do not comply with our policies.”
Update 15.23 GMT: A spokesperson for Rovio, the makers of Angry Birds, said, “we are still completing the full investigation on the matter, but we have not initially been able to find any persistent identifiers of our users being passed to said third parties.”
ZDNet has reached out to the developers of applications mentioned in the report and will update if we hear back.
Previous and related coverage
Adventist Risk Management Data Protection Infrastructure
Companies always want to enhance their ability to quickly address pressing business needs. Toward that end, they look for new ways to make their IT infrastructures more efficient—and more cost effective. Today, those pressing needs often center around data protection and regulatory compliance, which was certainly the case for Adventist Risk Management. What they wanted was an end-to-end, best-in-class solution to meet their needs. After trying several others, they found the perfect combination with HYCU and Nutanix, which provided:
- Ease of deployment
- Outstanding ROI
- Overall TCO improvement
Nutanix Cloud Platform provides a software-defined hyperconverged infrastructure, while HYCU offers purpose-built backup and recovery for Nutanix. Compared to the previous traditional infrastructure and data protection solutions in use at Adventist Risk Management, Nutanix and HYCU simplified processes, speeding day-to-day operations up to 75%. Now, migration and update activities typically scheduled for weekends can be performed during working hours and help to increase IT staff and management quality of life. HYCU further increased savings by providing faster and more frequent points of recovery as well as better DR Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO) by increasing the ability to do daily backups from one to four per day.
Furthermore, the recent adoption of Nutanix Objects, which provides secure and performant S3 storage capabilities, enhanced the infrastructure by:
- Improving overall performance for backups
- Adding security against potential ransomware attacks
- Replacing components difficult to manage and support
In the end, Nutanix and HYCU enabled their customer to save money, improve the existing environment, and, above all, meet regulatory compliance requirements without any struggle.
Secure Insight: GigaOm Partners with the CISO Series
Don’t look now, but GigaOm, the analyst firm that enables smart businesses to future-proof their decisions, is forging new partnerships to extend its reach and better inform busy IT decision makers. On Thursday, the company announced it was teaming with the CISO Series to share content and better support the community of chief information security officers, security practitioners, and security vendors.
“The CISO Series is one we have admired for a while because they have a very similar aim: They help security professionals become more knowledgeable and understand how their roles are changing,” said Ben Book, GigaOm founder and CEO. “We saw a clear common interest and are delighted to be working together.”
The CISO Series brand has built a formidable reputation through its podcasts, blogs, video chats, and live events for the security community. It has added the extremely popular CyberSecurity Headlines podcast to its stable this year, which joins the CISO/Security Vendor Relationship and Defense in Depth podcasts. Every Friday at 10am Pacific Time, the CISO Series hosts its highly engaging and fun weekly live CISO Series Video Chat, which viewers can register for here.
The channel partnership connects two of the strongest, fastest-growing brands in enterprise IT content production. The agreement enables the CISO Series to share exclusive GigaOm reports with its audience ahead of publication, while GigaOm is able to share insights from the CISO Series’ various publications through its social channels and newsletters. The CISO Series joins other media firms, such as The Register and SDXCentral, as official GigaOm Channel Partners.
“We are delighted to be working with GigaOm because we’re not only both addressing the same audience, but we’re also both trying to bring education and understanding to both the security vendor and practitioner communities,” said David Spark, managing editor and executive producer at the CISO Series. “GigaOm is providing some excellent reports that we’re leaning on for our discussions and reporting across all of our shows.”
Spark continued: “We are always tweaking our programming to bring the best and most up-to-date resources and we’re really impressed with both the volume and quality GigaOm is delivering. Not only are we impressed with their editorial work, but we also appreciate their business branding. It’s something we felt comfortable about aligning with the CISO Series brand as well.”
Check out the CISO Series schedule at http://crowdcast.io/cisoseries, or visit cisoseries.com for more information about the CISO Series and its weekly Video Chats.
Key Criteria for Evaluating Vulnerability Management Tools
Vulnerability management tools scan your IT estate to help identify and mitigate security risks and weaknesses. These tools can facilitate the development of a more comprehensive vulnerability management program. Leveraging people, processes, and technologies, successful initiatives effectively identify, classify, prioritize, and remediate security threats.
A security vulnerability is a weakness that can compromise the confidentiality, integrity, and availability (CIA) of information. Attackers are constantly looking to exploit defects in software code or insecure configurations. Vulnerabilities can exist anywhere in the software stack, from web applications and databases to infrastructure components such as load balancers, firewalls, machine and container images, operating systems, and libraries. This includes code used in the CI/CD pipeline as well as the infrastructure-as-code (IAC) that defines the compute, network, and storage infrastructure.
Recent cybersecurity events have exposed widespread vulnerabilities involving the exploitation of zero-day malware and unknown weaknesses. Threat actors continually discover new exploitation tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) to take advantage of weaknesses throughout integrated systems. Moreover, identifying breach paths is increasingly complicated due to the widespread adoption of ephemeral services.
Vulnerability management solutions should provide end-to-end visibility of the protect-surface by aggregating both platform and application risks in a single pane of glass, while leveraging prioritized remediation based on business risk and threat context for efficiency. Containerized workloads deployed via DevOps pipelines have unique security requirements that demand a fully integrated vulnerability assessment to be automated into cloud platform services running containerized workloads.
The path to a mature security posture starts with the ability to identify vulnerabilities in software code, third-party libraries, and at runtime. In addition, the cloud platform used to host your applications should be scanned for misconfigurations. This requires the use of policy configuration baselines, benchmarks, and compliance standards that apply to both the infrastructure and the code used to build it. As organizations implement security guardrails early in the software development lifecycle (SDLC), they can take advantage of cloud-native culture to ensure network and security tools are used throughout all phases of the SDLC.
This GigaOm report explores the key criteria and emerging technologies that IT decision makers should evaluate when choosing a vulnerability management solution. The key criteria report, together with the GigaOm radar report that evaluates relevant products, provides a framework to help organizations assess the solutions currently available on the market and how these tools fit with their requirements.
How to Read this Report
This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:
Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.
GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.
Vendor Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.
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