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At least 17,000 Android apps build a permanent archive of all your online activities and use that information for advertising purposes. The apps keep the archive, even if you indicate that the information has to be forgotten. This is shown by new research into the way in which Android apps track users’ behaviour.

New research from the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) in California shows that the app uses your Advertising ID. In addition, they use various other identifiers that can be used for personalised advertisements and their specific targeting. In this way, the apps build extensive archives with the online activity of a user, even if the user does not give permission for it.

Violate tracking rules

That’s what the CNet site reports based on the ICSI’s investigation. This suggests that the apps are violating Google’s policy on tracking users. Google requires developers and advertisers not to link the Advertising ID to information that can be linked to a person. Also, developers should not link that ID to device information such as the Android ID, IMEI, SSAID or the MAC address.

Google also requires developers to be able to choose not to be followed at all in advertising. But the research institute now states that developers are massively ignoring these rules. A total of 17,000 Android apps were found that not only use the Advertising ID, but also other identifiers. By linking these elements together, developers can build a comprehensive overview of a user’s recent online activity.

Highly popular apps

As a result, even if a user chooses to be forgotten, or to reset his ad profile, that will be ignored. The ICSI reports twenty very popular apps that violate Google policies and have all been downloaded more than 100 million times. Some of them have even been downloaded more than a billion times.

The apps that are included include Clean Master, which has been downloaded more than 1 billion times, as well as Angry Birds Classic, Audible and Subway Surfers. Flipboard was also on the list, but its developers informed CNet that the app does not use the Android ID to target ads.

Difficult to check

The researchers argue that it is particularly problematic for Google to provide the user with all kinds of privacy tools, but that the company then does not impose them. Google provides users with the necessary privacy tools, but does nothing else, because it only has control over the Advertising ID. The problem is that in the vast majority of cases more identifiers are used by apps, they conclude.

The institute has reported the problems to Google, but has not yet received a response. However, the tech giant informs CNet that in some cases action has been taken, and that the company takes the problems very seriously. By the way, developers like Rovio (from Angry Birds) and Cheetah Mobiel (from Clean Master) also state that they comply with all Google rules.

This news article was automatically translated from Dutch to give Techzine.eu a head start. All news articles after September 1, 2019 are written in native English and NOT translated. All our background stories are written in native English as well. For more information read our launch article.