"data-reactid =" 18 "> As data breaches and privacy concerns become a tremendously common feature of our digital world, it is increasingly important that we think critically about the types of applications With which we share our information A new report from The Wall Street Journal finds that a popular weather app asks users for "an unusual amount of data" and allegedly subscribes some users to paid services without their consent.
Weather Forecast's behavior – World Weather Accurate Radar, available on Android, has been identified for the first time by the UK-based security company, Upstream Systems, the newspaper said Wednesday. The application of Chinese consumer electronics manufacturer TCL Communication Technology Holdings Ltd. would have collected data including International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers, addresses and email addresses on its servers. The Journal also alleged that the application had fraudulently engaged users for "virtual reality services":
The weather app also attempted to smuggle more than 100,000 users of its low-cost Alcatel smartphones into countries such as Brazil, Malaysia and Nigeria to pay virtual reality services, according to Upstream Systems. The security firm, which discovered the activity as part of its work for mobile operators, said users would have been charged more than $ 1.5 million if it had not blocked attempts.
After the Wall Street Journal investigated the app's activities in November, TCL updated the app in Google's Play Store. The application then stopped trying to subscribe users to the services, according to Upstream, even though data collection continues.
As the newspaper notes, it's not uncommon for weather apps to ask users for their location information, but it's unusual for an app to request information such as IMEI numbers. Technically, an IMEI number can be used to track a person, but is ultimately considered useless for long-term malicious purposes; numbers can be associated with multiple people over the life of a device and consumers upgrade and replace their devices faster than before.
The reason the company collects such information is unclear. The buttons built into the application supposed to prevent such data collection do not actually do so, the Journal said. The company would not comment on its data collection practices to the newspaper. Google did not immediately return a request for comment.
Another popular weather app, AccuWeather, was criticized last year after security researcher Will Strafach claimed that his partner for the iOS Reveal Mobile app was tracking users even if they said they would not want to share their news. location. Reveal Mobile and AccuWeather subsequently issued a joint statement stating that the data collection was due to a misconfiguration of the old SDK.
Even the most benign applications carry significant privacy risks, such as PopSugar's viral matching application, which has proven to be a leak from user selfies. The frustrating thing about applications such as these collecting user data is that users are rarely aware of what they share before the latest information is revealed. on the potential exposure of data, violations or leaks. And as the Review points out, this can be particularly insidious in emerging markets, where cheap smartphones with preloaded apps can put users' data at risk.
It's always good to be cautious about the data you share with applications, even those that seem harmless.
[Wall Street Journal]