When you explicitly tell an Android app, “No, you don’t have permission to track my phone,” you probably expect that it won’t have abilities that let it do that. But researchers say that thousands of apps have found ways to cheat Android’s permissions system, phoning home your device’s unique identifier and enough data to potentially reveal your location as well.
Even if you say “no” to one app when it asks for permission to see those personally identifying bits of data, it might not be enough: a second app with permissions you have approved can share those bits with the other one or leave them in shared storage where another app — potentially even a malicious one — can read it. The two apps might not seem related, but researchers say that because they’re built using the same software development kits (SDK), they can access that data, and there’s evidence that the SDK owners are receiving it. It’s like a kid asking for dessert who gets told “no” by one parent, so they ask the other parent.
According to a study presented at PrivacyCon 2019, we’re talking about apps from the likes of Samsung and Disney that have been downloaded hundreds of millions of times. They use SDKs built by Chinese search giant Baidu and an analytics firm called Salmonads that could pass your data from one app to another (and to their servers) by storing it locally on your phone first. Researchers saw that some apps using the Baidu SDK may be attempting to quietly obtain this data for their own use.
Submitted by: Arnfried Walbrecht