67 percent of China Android apps track users' data

67 percent of China Android apps track users' data

Summary: Chinese research firm finds more than a third of apps published on China's various Android appstores track users' mobile data without them knowing.

Mobile apps on Chinese Android stores track user information without their knowledge, highlighting the platform's inherent vulnerability.

Mobile apps on Chinese Android stores are tracking and harvesting user data, and call records, SMSes and phone numbers face the highest risk of being stolen, a Data Center of China Internet (DCCI) report finds.

According to the research firm's findings released Wednesday, China's mobile phone users had reached 1.1 billion, with 400 million of them being smartphone users. Of the 400 million, 84 percent of them on Android operating system (OS), it noted.

The study also investigated 1,400 apps across China's various Android markets, and found that 66.9 percent of apps were tracking user data. Of this figure, 34.5 percent of them were doing "cross-border data tracking", which refers to tracking private data which has no connection to the app's function and users not being aware of this activity happening.

It was also found that call records, SMSes and users' contact lists were the most vulnerable to information disclosure.

Objective of mobile apps on Chinese Android marketplace
Objective Apps that do so because of app functionality (%)
Apps that do so not because of app functionality (%)
Reading phone records 26.1 73.1
Reading SMS records 38.9 61.1
Collecting user phone numbers 39.5 60.5
Reading contact lists 62.0 38.0
Making calls 70.9 29.1
Tracking location 74.1 24.9
Sending SMS 76.2 23.8
Collecting user data 91.5 8.5
Source: Data Center of China Internet, 2013 Mobile Privacy and Security Report

Mobile-related activities and apps in China frequently come under fire for mining user data and other security related issues.  In November 2012, an undercover investigation found "shady" mobile advertisement practices in China, including advertising on pirated copycat apps and mining user data to sell to advertising agencies.

Back in March 2011, Chinese antivirus firm NetQin, now known as NQ Mobile, was accused of being in cahoots with app developing firm Feiliu to inject malware into smartphones before charging users for removing them. This led to industry and consumer backlash for both companies.

Topics: Security, Android, Apps, Mobility, China

Ellyne Phneah

About Ellyne Phneah

Elly grew up on the adrenaline of crime fiction and it spurred her interest in cybercrime, privacy and the terror on the dark side of IT. At ZDNet Asia, she has made it her mission to warn readers of upcoming security threats, while also covering other tech issues.

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  • Tracking Apps

    Some stores (such as Home Depot) now employ an app which tracks you (via your cell phone, smart phone or no) as you walk around.
  • One solution, don't use android.

    Google is responsible for creating such a lousy and insecure platform for the bad guys to take advantage. What a shame...
  • and 90 % of Apples apps

    and 90 % of Apples apps track its users:
    "Apple iOS Apps Leak More Personal Info Than Android"
    "40% of iOS popular apps invade your privacy without any permission"

    • Comparing Apples and Lemons

      Putting quotes around something you make up doesn't make it more true. Apple has been more dogmatic about protecting user privacy data than most, turning down the likes of Facebook asking for deeper access. Android has Facebook Home which hands over control of a lot of the phone's personal data, like the address book and photos. iOS devices at least don't need antivirus software, nor are information-stealing malware limited to China. Over 79% of mobile malware are on Android, some have bitten millions of users before being discovered, despite the guarantees of the Android stores (eg Google recently had to remove 32 apps containing malware from their Play store that had been downloaded 9 million times), and in 2012 alone some 33 million Android users were infected, most in china, followed by India, with the US making up 9.8% of cases. Most of these are low-level malware, but also includes rootkits stealing all personal information from contacts to SMS on the phone, and racking up fees on premium SMS calls and diverting ads to rogue networks. Point to just one iOS malware outbreak or incident (even related to jailbreaking which provides access to shady and pirated software), let alone one affecting millions of users or even stealing personal information. Just one. Then look at the flood of Android malware. I thought so.
  • android give us many convenient

    Google android give us many convenient,but there are many security risks with it.Personal Information can be stealed by hacker.

    DY tablet is more safe for us.