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FYI: Finding Out What Data Apps Really Collect

For example, a navigation app requires your positioning information to build a convenient route for the user

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Data, Apps, Privacy
Sometimes, they really need such data to operate. Pixabay

With instances of data leakage becoming more and more common, privacy has become the chief casualty. But for those who want to find out if an app is stealthily collecting their data, there are ways to find out, according to researchers.

As cybersecurity firm Kaspersky explained in a blog, most apps collect some information about the user. Sometimes, they really need such data to operate. For example, a navigation app requires your positioning information to build a convenient route for the user.

Developers often use information about users to monetise or improve their service – with prior consent. For example, they may collect anonymous statistics to find bottlenecks in their app and understand along what avenue it needs to be developed.

But some developers may abuse users trust by stealthily collecting information unrelated to their app’s functionality and by selling your data to third parties.

Data, Apps, Privacy
As cybersecurity firm Kaspersky explained in a blog, most apps collect some information about the user. Pixabay

Fortunately, a user can use a couple of services to bring such apps into the open.

The AppCensus service helps users to find out what personal data apps collect and where they send it. It relies on the dynamic analysis method. The app is installed on a real mobile device, granted all the required permissions, and actively used for a certain period of time. All the while, the service keeps an eye on the app to see what data it sends, and to whom, and whether the data is encrypted.

Exodus Privacy is another service that may help you know what data an app collects about you. Unlike AppCensus, Exodus Privacy studies apps themselves, not their behaviour. The service analyses the permissions an app requests and it looks for built-in trackers – third-party modules made to collect information about users and their actions.

Developers often equip their apps with trackers provided by advertising networks, which are made to learn as much as possible about you for the purpose of delivering personalised ads. At present, Exodus Privacy recognises more than 200 types of such trackers.

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Both services are easy to use. A simple search on the app’s name will yield thorough information about what data it collects and where the data goes.

Unlike AppCensus, Exodus allows users not only to pick apps from a list, but also, using the New analysis tab, to add apps from Google Play for analysis.

So prior to using unfamiliar apps, you can scan them using AppCensus and Exodus Privacy. If the results do not meet your expectations, you can look for another app. (IANS)

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Facebook Shares Data on Child Nudity, Terrorism, Drug Sales on Instagram

On spread of hate speech on its platforms, Facebook said it can detect such harmful content before people report it and, sometimes, before anyone sees it

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Social Media, Facebook, Authenticity, Posts
The social media application, Facebook is displayed on Apple's App Store, July 30, 2019. VOA

Facebook has shared for the first time data on how it takes action against child nudity and child sexual exploitation, terrorist propaganda, illicit firearm and drug sales and suicide and self-injury on its photo-sharing app Instagram.

In Q2 2019, Facebook removed about 512,000 pieces of content related to child nudity and child sexual exploitation on Instagram.

“In Q3 (July-September period), we saw greater progress and removed 754,000 pieces of content, of which 94.6 per cent we detected proactively,” Guy Rosen, VP Integrity, said in a statement on Wednesday.

It is ironic that Instagram has also become a platform, like Facebook, for such acts.

“For child nudity and sexual exploitation of children, we made improvements to our processes for adding violations to our internal database in order to detect and remove additional instances of the same content shared on both Facebook and Instagram,” Rosen explained.

In its “Community Standards Enforcement Report, November 2019,” the social networking platform said it has been detecting and removing content associated with Al Qaeda, ISIS and their affiliates on Facebook above 99 per cent.

“The rate at which we proactively detect content affiliated with any terrorist organisation on Facebook is 98.5 per cent and on Instagram is 92.2 per cent,” informed the company.

facebook privacy
FILE – The Instagram icon is displayed on a mobile screen in Los Angeles. VOA

In the area of suicide and self-injury, Facebook took action on about 2 million pieces of content in Q2 2019.

“We saw further progress in Q3 when we removed 2.5 million pieces of content, of which 97.3 per cent we detected proactively.

“On Instagram, we saw similar progress and removed about 835,000 pieces of content in Q2 2019, of which 77.8 per cent we detected proactively, and we removed about 845,000 pieces of content in Q3 2019, of which 79.1 per cent we detected proactively,” said Rosen.

In Q3 2019, Gacebook removed about 4.4 million pieces of drug sale content. It removed about 2.3 million pieces of firearm sales content in the same period.

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On Instagram, the company removed about 1.5 million pieces of drug sale content and 58,600 pieces of firearm sales content.

On spread of hate speech on its platforms, Facebook said it can detect such harmful content before people report it and, sometimes, before anyone sees it.

“With these evolutions in our detection systems, our proactive rate has climbed to 80 per cent, from 68 per cent in our last report, and we’ve increased the volume of content we find and remove for violating our hate speech policy,” said Rosen. (IANS)