Scary Smartphone Location Tracking

ExpressVPN analyzed 450 apps and found location trackers in every one. See image below to understand roughly how and where your data is being sold.

Some key findings quoted from the report.

  1. We identified location tracker SDKs in 450 apps that have been downloaded at least 1.7 billion times. Though U.S. government scrutiny continues to grow, 67% (305) of these apps remain available at the end of January 2021.
  2. Location trackers appear in 42 messaging apps with at least 187 million downloads, including apps masquerading as popular services such as Telegram, Facebook Messenger, and WeChat.
  3. X-Mode, the subject of a ban by Apple and Google, is prevalent in many more apps than previously reported, appearing in 44% (199) of the apps we analyzed that have been downloaded at least 1 billion times. Despite the ban, only 10% of these apps have been removed from Google Play.
  4. Surveillance of Muslim audiences via apps is much larger than previously reported, with X-Mode and related location tracker SDKs identified in ten religious and cultural apps with at least 67 million downloads.
  5. Dating and social apps are a notable target of location tracker SDKs, making up 64 of the 450 apps we analyzed with at least 52 million downloads.
  6. Quadrant, a location tracker with over 60 million daily active users, is present in two apps that have been central in recent privacy scandals.
  7. References to OneAudience, which was sued by Facebook for privacy violations, are present in 37% (167) of the apps we analyzed.

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