Popular VPN and Ad-Blocking Apps Are Secretly Harvesting User Data

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    An anonymous reader quotes a report from BuzzFeed News: Sensor Tower, a popular analytics platform for tech developers and investors, has been secretly collecting data from millions of people who have installed popular VPN and ad-blocking apps for Android and iOS, a BuzzFeed News investigation has found. These apps, which don’t disclose their connection to the company or reveal that they feed user data to Sensor Tower’s products, have more than 35 million downloads. Since 2015, Sensor Tower has owned at least 20 Android and iOS apps. Four of these — Free and Unlimited VPN, Luna VPN, Mobile Data, and Adblock Focus — were recently available in the Google Play store. Adblock Focus and Luna VPN were in Apple’s App Store. Apple removed Adblock Focus and Google removed Mobile Data after being contacted by BuzzFeed News. The companies said they continue to investigate. Once installed, Sensor Tower’s apps prompt users to install a root certificate, a small file that lets its issuer access all traffic and data passing through a phone. The company told BuzzFeed News it only collects anonymized usage and analytics data, which is integrated into its products. Sensor Tower’s app intelligence platform is used by developers, venture capitalists, publishers, and others to track the popularity, usage trends, and revenue of apps. Randy Nelson, Sensor Tower’s head of mobile insights, said the company’s apps do not collect sensitive data or personally identifiable information and that “the vast majority of these apps listed are now defunct (inactive) and a few are in the process of sunsetting.” But, as BuzzFeed points out, most of the apps are no longer available “because they were removed due to policy violations.” Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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