Here’s How To Track The Smartphone Apps That Are Tracking You


When it comes to websites, we have ever more sophisticated techniques at our disposal to block the ads that sometimes track our wanderings around the internet. But most of us spend much of our time these days in mobile apps that offer no transparency on how we’re being tracked or sold–nor tools for blocking that behavior.

We must rely on operating system makers–primarily Apple and Google–to promulgate guidelines to developers on legitimate practices when it comes to tracking behavior, asking for personal information, and transferring data to remote servers. OS makers are also responsible for enforcing those requirements. The rules in place are very broad, and except for abuses that can be quickly checked by in-house reviewers, come into play most often when users and researchers report violations.

Apple’s rules, for instance, require that apps must obtain someone’s permission before transmitting personal data, and have to describe how and where the data will be used. Apple doesn’t police these rules by performing network communication interceptions or demanding to audit remote databases. (The company declined an interview for this story.)

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