Android apps illegally steal users’ info, lawsuit claims

Mobile viruses aren’t the only BYOD security threat companies need to watch for. There may also be legitimate apps that snoop on users’ data more than organizations are comfortable with. 

And in the case of Android, there are plenty of apps that violate users privacy — with Google’s approval, a recently filed lawsuit alleges.

The suit is an updated version of claim from last year that was rejected in court. The complaint alleges that Google collects personal data about users without their consent and allows Android app developers to do the same.

The complainants argue that Google should be more upfront about its own privacy practices and take responsibility for blocking apps that collect too much data from users’ phones.

A lot of Android apps are suspicious

Beyond mobile viruses, those data hungry apps can also be a significant security risk for companies that allow employees to use personal devices as part of a BYOD program. It’s possible that users may download those apps onto smartphones that also contain sensitive business information.

And the concern isn’t isolated to just a few pieces of software. In fact, one study estimated that as much as 25% of the apps in the Google Play store are suspicious. That includes Android viruses, as well as apps that just collect more information than they need to perform their stated functions.

Other mobile platforms have suspicious applications, too. A study released earlier this year by Appthority found that iOS apps were actually more prone to leaking private data than those for Android. Overall, close to 80% of the top 50 free apps for both platforms exhibited some kind of risky or suspicious behavior.

To avoid accidentally exposing sensitive information on a BYOD device, experts recommend companies either blacklist apps on the smartphones and tablets employees use for work, or at least offer tips on how to avoid downloading suspicious apps.

Some advice experts recommend:

  • Do a quick web search to check up on the developer and the app itself. Look for red flags in the search results, such as negative reviews or complaints.
  • Read the app’s user reviews. Red flags will show up here, too.
  • For Android devices, examine the permissions of the app. Are they in line with the app’s intended use?

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