More than 1/3 of Chinese Android Apps Stealing Data

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In China, Google’s Android platform truly lives in the wild, wild West. A recent report from the Data Center of China Internet indicated that nearly 35 percent of Android apps secretly steal data unrelated to the functionality of the app, Tech in Asia reported.

The center examined 1,400 apps downloaded from a variety of app markets, and found that 66.9 percent tracked users’ data, while 34.5 percent tracked data that was completely unrelated to the task of the app.

The apps were found to download text message history, address books, call records, and location data. More than half of the apps tracked user’s location, and 13.2 percent tracked location even though location had nothing to do with the functionality of the app. In fact, study and beauty apps tended to track location the most.  About 21 percent checked user’s address books, 18 percent tracked call records, and 12 percent read text history. About 15 percent of the apps also made calls or sent texts without the user’s consent, leaving some users to pay for the unexpected cost.

Users received no notification that such data would be accessed.

Most of the apps have nothing to do with Google. Google Play does not support paid apps in China, in part because of Google’s strained relationship with the Chinese government over censorship, but also out of the concern that Android’s openness would be easy for spammers and cyber criminals to abuse. Most Chinese users turn to unofficial websites for Android apps.

Google’s hands off approach has created a fragmented climate in the Chinese market that has led to a sort of app anarchy .  Non-official Android apps have been dubbed ChinaDroids, or generic apps equipped with modified versions of Android.

Though Google has little control over the Android app market in China, the Chinese government has expressed concerns over Android’s dominance of the app market. China’s Ministry of Information Technology recently accused Google in a white paper that said the Android market gave Google too much control over China’s smartphone industry and discriminated against Chinese companies by making it difficult for Chinese companies to develop their own systems.

Clearly, Google has little control over an app market that doesn’t even take place under its own watch.