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Is Your Smartphone Spying On You? Researchers Have the Answer

Concerning findings suggest that some apps may be doing too much “snooping.”

Brandon Walker

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For all too many of us, our phones can be our lives. Whether we are on social media, games, or even at work, smartphones provide a clear window into multitudes of personal information. But is this private information making its way into the hands of some malicious spyware?

Researchers at Northeastern University did some investigating. In the 17,260 Android apps that they looked into, they did find results of “snooping” – but in a different way than speculated, USA Today reported.

The research indicated that phones are not turning on microphones or activating cameras on their on – which is good news. So, this dismisses the speculation and theories that our phones are constantly recording us.

But on some of the apps, however, researchers found that they “sent screenshots and recordings of what users did on the app screen to third parties, presumably to sell that information to marketers or data brokers,” USA Today said.

In their research paper, they highlight the concerning findings.

“It’s known as ‘full-session replay technology’ and basically allows whoever is getting the file to see everything you did on the app, whether it was playing a game, typing in your address, your shoe size or your credit card number,” USA Today explained.

One app on Android – called GoPuff – was caught secretly recording screenshots on their users’ phones. This delivery service app then sent the information over to a mobile analytics firm, according to Daily Mail.

“The app, which has been downloaded more than 100,000 times from the Google Play Store, took footage of a screen that asked for a customers to list their zip code,” said Daily Mail. “GoPuff’s privacy policy did not notify users their screens could be recorded while using the smartphone app.”

Even though the research was only conducted on Android phones, it wouldn’t be surprising if iPhones were doing something similar. Again, there is no evidence that our phones are spying and recording us at will, but it’s still troubling that some apps are sending personal information elsewhere behind the scenes.

Are you looking for digital journalism training and experience? Are you a journalism major who wants to take your career to the next level? CMN’s Digital Journalism course gives you real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to journalism influencers and mentors, and a great place to display your work. You can get academic credit too. Check out the Digital Journalism Course here.

Brandon Walker is a junior finance major at Temple University. He is a committed writer and jazz pianist. Brandon has written for The Temple News and is interested in a career in business and communications. He can be reached at brandon.walker@temple.edu.

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