Android: Numerous applications check installed apps for advertising purposes

According to a study, a third of commercial Android apps check which other applications are installed – many use the information for advertising.Reading time:1 min.Save in pocketreadPrint viewread comments22posts

Numerous Android apps collect information about which other applications are installed on a cell phone or tablet. This is shown by a team of researchers from the Netherlands, Switzerland and Italy in a recent study. According to this, 30 percent of all commercial applications read the list of installed apps. According to the research, this information is often used for advertising purposes.

Android provides developers with programming interfaces with which they can obtain information about other applications on the device. These interfaces, which the researchers call “IAM” (installed application methods) , have a number of potential uses: for example, they are necessary for launchers or apps that are used to monitor other applications, and they are also important for notification managers and backup software The researchers write in their study, but in some cases the primary aim seems to be to use the information obtained to target advertising more effectively.

The app developers are not always responsible for the app queries themselves. Instead, according to the study, the queries mostly come from code libraries that developers integrate into their applications. 30 percent of the 14,000 apps examined from the Play Store used “IAMs”. However, the developers built in the queries themselves in only 17 percent of them – 83 percent came from libraries. When asked by the researchers, some developers were even surprised: They didn’t know anything about the queries.

The researchers examined 154 of these libraries. They found that 56 of them classified as advertising libraries. Previous studies have shown that the list of apps installed on mobile phones can be used to derive fairly reliable statements about the user – for example about gender, spoken languages, religion and even income. Such data can be valuable for advertising service providers. Also striking: Previous studies had found a significantly lower frequency of “IAMs”. This could be an indication that the popularity of queries has increased in recent years.

Android
(Image: dpa, Christof Kerkmann)

According to the scientists, this is particularly problematic because the user is not aware of any of the queries – in contrast to accessing the microphone or camera, the user does not need to give the app a query. Google wants to introduce a permission to view all apps in Android 11 , but according to the current state of knowledge, this will not appear among users. These steps are not enough to address data protection concerns, the researchers say.

They currently advise worried cell phone users to use open source applications – they surveyed the installed apps much less frequently than the commercial Android applications from the Play Store. ( there ) Read comments ( 22 )Go to the homepage

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