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University study finds consumers unaware of data Android Apps are accessing

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Researchers from the University of British Columbia and the University of California, Berkeley, has uncovered that a significant number of smartphone users are unaware of the information that their Android Apps are accessing, with many expressing that if they were aware, they would like to stop it.

A considerable number of smartphone owners are unaware of the permissions given when an App is downloading, and that currently the only way to refuse a specific condition is not to download the App at all.

One such application that sparked outrage amongst consumers was Google Play’s ‘Brightest Flashlight’ App, a free download that activates all available lights on the device. The App has been downloaded over 100 million times, but caused controversy when users discovered it was recording and sharing their location and device information. However, users were oblivious to these facts until the practice was exposed by the media.

For this most recent study, researchers gave each member of a group of 36-participants a mobile handset with a modified form of Android that highlighted exactly when data was being accessed and what permission was needed.

After a week-long period and 27 million data points, 80 percent of participants voiced a desire to block at least one permission, and overall, one third of all requests would have been stopped if the process had been possible. A total of just six participants claimed they were happy with every aspect of the data sharing.

Another study, published by the Pew Research Center last week, shows that consumers in the States often balance the invasion of privacy or online security against perceived benefits; for example, 54 percent of consumers claim they would accept surveillance in the workplace if it were to catch thieves, while only 27 percent would accept a black box in their car to lower the cost of insurance premiums.

This study highlights the need for App developers to inform users of the permissions and processes needed in order to download an App, and should look to incorporate a method in which consumers can opt out.

Additional reporting by CTV News.

Image via Shutterstock.

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