Google took action on nefarious and sneaky apps available on the Play Store. These apps implemented data scraping which resulted in a permanent ban from the Play Store. But, it is a small respite to the users of these apps, whose personal data was scraped without permission.
Which apps did Play Store ban for Data scraping?
Some Muslim prayer apps are a major highlight in this list. Numerous Quran prayer apps are now booted from the Play Store for injecting code for data scraping. Similarly, other banned apps were basic utility apps like a remote mouse, QR-code scanner apps, messaging apps, and more. In a recent report by AppCensus, you can find all the apps that the Play Store found guilty of data scraping.
Serge Egelman from the I.C.S.I at UC Berkeley and Joel Reardon of the University of Calgary conducted this independent research. They found a crafty line of code in the SDK which showed signs of data scraping without the user’s consent.
Who is behind these apps?
Measurement System made the SDK used by the apps that Play Store banned. It contained the line of code that stole data. According to researchers, these apps collected rich data including email and phone numbers. It also used data scraping for precise location info and nearby devices and passwords.
Moreover, it kept tabs on WhatsApp downloads done by the users. The code abstained from encrypting the personal identifiers of users which is a direct breach of privacy policies.
Why is it a concern?
Many App developers come up with sneaky tracking and information stealing tactics. But the involvement of Measurement Systems points fingers in a different direction altogether. It has connections with a company that works in the cyberintelligence area for the federal government.
So, it is a direct breach of privacy of the citizens as they performed data scraping without consent. Moreover, these apps targeted a majority of the Muslim community in the U.S. The attempt sidelined all the gestures of faith put in by the government, for trusting and valuing Muslim citizens. The US government didn’t comment on their involvement in data scraping. But they dig agree about buying data a few years back, but it was a matter of national security.
Some of these apps are now back on the Play Store because they have removed the meddlesome code. Recently, Google spokesperson Scott Westover said that if the apps remove the code, they are welcome on the Play Store.