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Apps removed by Google for secretly copying phone data

It has been announced that Google have removed over a dozen apps from the Play Store. This comes after learning they contained some malicious code which was checking people’s locations, phone numbers and email addresses.

Some of the app’s removed include, a weather app, QR code scanner and a Muslim prayer app. Some of these had been downloaded more than 10 million times.

A spokesperson reported the following to the BBC

“All apps on Google Play must comply with our policies, regardless of developer,”

“When we determine an app violates these policies, we take appropriate action.”

Google had previously warned app developers they needed to be clear with users about the information they share.

In December 2021, it said apps which fail to comply with its data policy faced being banned from the Play Store after Huq, a British firm which collects location data, admitted, two app partners had not sought the correct user permissions.

Google PlayStore

The QR code and barcode scanner app which had been downloaded more than five million times is an app that you would download to use once or twice and then forget about.

The app was secretly sending users’ sensitive data, including their phone’s unique IMEI identification number, to a company based in Panama named Measurement Systems, and traced back to a company in Virginia, US, called Vostrom Holdings.

According to researchers, the apps contained a software development kit (SDK) which sent private information to a third party.

Apps banned for the prohibited harvesting of user data can apply for reinstatement in the Google Play Store if the offending code is removed, the Google spokesperson added.

Most of the offending apps are now available for download again, if they no longer include the SDK.

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