Over a third of Chinese Android apps are stealing user's private data …
Android remains the dominant OS in China’s exploding mobile marketplace, but there’s a downside to its popularity. Chinese app stores are packed with apps that harvest user data. Many of the offending apps are hauling off everything they can get their hands on, not just data that’s related in any way to their functionality.
According to the Data Center of China Internet’s analysis of the top 1,400 apps, roughly 66% are phoning home with private data. The Center also found that 34.5% of apps are guilty of full-on pillaging, uploading everything from address book entries to phone call and SMS messaging history. Around 15% of these apps are even making calls and sending texts — and that almost always means the user is incurring an unexpected cost. Pilfered data doesn’t end with what’s in your phone either: many apps want to know where you are. That’s fine if you’re using a location app like Foursquare, but nearly a quarter of the apps DCCI found tracking user locations don’t have any reason to do so.
Compounding the problem is the fact that almost all of this unsavory data collection takes place without users being notified. That’s not a huge surprise when you understand that the Chinese Android ecosystem is a bit like a lawless frontier town.
Low-cost Chinese smartphones ship with heavily-modified Android ROMs and users frequently don’t install apps from Google Play. Instead they turn to the same unofficial sources that routinely pop up in reports about the prevalence of Android malware in China, or download .APK installers directly from developers, both of which do an end-run around Google’s security measures.
The big reason unofficial distribution channels are so popular in China is that Google Play doesn’t support paid apps there. With users already accustomed to paying for apps from outside sources, there’s no reason to believe that the vast majority would have many concerns about installing any kind of non-Play app.
Perhaps DCCI’s report will shock Chinadroid users into changing their behavior — and maybe even convince Google that it’s time to do something about the Android chaos in the world’s biggest mobile market.