Apps spy on you

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Spy apps may have been designed so that parents can watch over their kids, but that’s not where it stops. These sneaky apps can be used by boyfriends, girlfriends, family members, or even suspicious employers.

Your phone might have years of text messages and emails with personal information, saved voicemails, pictures of your family, GPS location data, browsing history, notes and more. It’s a record of your entire life wrapped in a bit of metal, plastic and glass. Imagine how terrible it would be for a snoop to get their hands on that information.

If someone you know seems to know a little too much about your life, they could be spying on you right now.

While we are telling you about these apps, it’s strictly for you to know what is out there. If you install any of these apps, do so at your own risk. Be forewarned that these apps are not legal in certain states.

1. TheOneSpy

If you use an iPhone or iPad, then you need to watch out for TheOneSpy. It’s a unique app that specifically targets gadgets that run on iOS, and it’s scary. Once the software is installed, whoever installed it is essentially in possession of everything that happens on that particular device.

All of the data collected by TheOneSpy is encrypted and sent to a web portal where a spy can review it. This means someone could be reading your sent and received text messages and emails, listening to recordings of your phone calls, snooping through your browsing history and more. TheOneSpy can also activate the microphone and camera on your device to spy on your surroundings.

A subscription plan for TheOneSpy isn’t all that expensive. At least, not when you compare it to others out there. Purchasing 30 days of monitoring only costs around $25.

2. Highster Mobile

This spying software is known for its ability to monitor other apps you use on your device, such as Facebook, Instagram, Skype, WhatsApp, etc. It can be installed remotely, and can block any app it’s told to. And you might think that you can cover your tracks, but you’re wrong. Highster Mobile has the ability to access messages and data that have been deleted.

Highster Mobile can also be used to completely lock a targeted phone, which means you could lose access to your device entirely. It works on both Apple and Android devices, and only costs a one-time fee of $70 to purchase the software.

3. FlexiSpy

Similar to the others mentioned above, FlexiSpy is an app that can be installed on your device to spy on activity. It shares many of the same features but gets worse. Not only can FlexiSpy monitor messages, audio and data, it can spy on your GPS location, passwords, and other apps.

Plus, whoever installed the app can receive alerts for various triggers, and can spy on you in secret since the application is hidden from the task manager.

Premium plans for FlexiSpy cost $68 per month, and the app can be used to monitor both Android and Apple smartphones and tablets.

4. mSpy

If someone is paranoid enough to spy on you, they might be using mSpy. One of the most frightening things about mSpy is its ability to monitor content from apps like SnapChat. It can also monitor your GPS location, and even restrict incoming calls from a predefined number.

mSpy is marketed toward parents who are worried about their child being contacted by someone they don’t trust, and it’s perfectly legal. However, it is possible that the software could be installed by an untrusting spouse or employer who has access to your device. Plus, mSpy offers 24/7 customer support to help these spies find what they need.

Worried yet? It gets worse. mSpy also has a bundle kit that provides desktop monitoring too. This means that every device you access could be used to spy on you. And this bundle kit costs less than $20 monthly.

5. Spyera

Now, this is freaky. Spyera isn’t just an app, it’s an entire smartphone. The app comes pre-installed on various Apple and Android devices, so whoever gives you the phone could be monitoring all of your personal activity.

Spyera software can listen in on phone calls and can use your microphone to listen in on everything else that’s happening near the smartphone. It can even record this audio as it’s happening and store it for later.

If that’s not enough to make you shiver, Spyera can also track your instant messages and texts, upload copies of the photos you take, spy on conversations held through other apps like Skype, Viber, WeChat, etc., log everything you type, and even use the camera to spy on you physically.

Perhaps the only thing about Spyera that might bring you comfort is that it’s pretty expensive. Anyone who wants to spy on you using Spyera would have to provide the device to have the software installed, and pay a hefty subscription on top of that. To give you an idea, one year of spying costs $389 for a smartphone alone.

Yes, your phone is spying on you and these researchers proved it

It surely says something about the dark side of technology that as time goes on, many of us are increasingly likely to believe the worst of what’s alleged about our devices. That we’re being used, manipulated, spied on, listened to, watched, taken advantage of in service of selling ads — even if evidence is presented to the contrary.

Some academics at Northeastern University recently set out to look into one such long-held assumption, the zombie conspiracy which no one ever seems to be able to kill over whether our phones are secretly listening to us to know which ads to present to us. A conspiracy that no less than Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg tried to swat down himself when he was grilled by Congress earlier this year.

What the researchers found: Your phone probably isn’t spying you. At least, not like that.

The study looked at 17,260 Android apps and specifically paid attention to the media files being sent from them. As Business Insider summarizes it, “The researchers found no instance in which these apps turned on the phone’s microphone unprompted and sent audio. But they did find that some apps were sending screen recordings and screenshots to third parties.”

Or — we’re all worried about the wrong kind of spying.

This is the kind of news headline that taps into a disaffection among tech users that’s built on such an emotional components that the facts of the matter almost don’t, well, matter. It’s the same with the recent headline about third parties reading your Gmail; Cambridge Analytica; and so many others. The average user sees in all of this, the core truth they latch on to — I’m being taken advantage of, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Back to the new study, which researchers will present the results of next month at the Privacy Enhancing Technology Symposium Conference in Barcelona. Gizmodo drills down and pulls out examples like that of junk food delivery app GoPuff, which the site describes as monitoring user interactions with the app and sending them to a mobile analytics company called Appsee.

GoPuff’s privacy policy didn’t say anything about doing that, even though it’s common for developers to lean on analytics companies like that. Once GoPuff was asked about it — naturally — they updated their policy to mention “Personally Identifiable Information” being given to Appsee.

That’s the way it goes with everything, not just tech, right? Money talks, and the other stuff walks.

We should also add — the Northeastern researchers didn’t fully debunk the whole eavesdropping thing. It’s just that they didn’t find evidence of it happening, which is not the same thing.

From the researchers: “Our study reveals several alarming privacy risks in the Android app ecosystem, including apps that over-provision their media permissions and apps that share image and video data with other parties in unexpected ways, without user knowledge or consent. We also identify a previously unreported privacy risk that arises from third party libraries that record and upload screenshots and videos of the screen without informing the user. This can occur without needing any permissions from the user.”

Image Source: SASCHA STEINBACH/EPA-EFE/REX/ Tags: AppsAndy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.

Thinking of spying on someone’s phone? Well, as you may have noticed, there are countless apps to do the same.

However, with so many apps around offering various features, it can be hard to choose which app you should use.

Therefore, I have compiled a list of top spy apps that will do the job for you. I have tried and tested each one of them.

I have observed each app on the basis of various parameters. These have been arranged from the best to the ‘not so best’ in my opinion. I will even give you the reason for my liking or disliking towards every app.

Before we begin, let us consider the various parameters through which you should choose a spy app to use.

Part 1: Spy App Parameters That Make or Break The Deal

Here are various things that you should consider before you select a phone monitoring tool. You are trusting the app with your data and security, therefore, the decision should be well informed.

  1. Root / Jailbreak vs No Root / No Jailbreak:

Some phone spy apps require rooting the Android phone or jailbreaking the iOS phone to work. However, rooting and jailbreaking a smartphone compromises with its security and makes it prone to outside attacks.

Not only that, for you to root or jailbreak a phone, you will need to access it for a longer time and carry out the tedious procedure. And once the phone is rooted or jailbroken, the user you wish to spy on will find out that what you have done.

Therefore, I would always suggest that you prefer a spying app that offers all the spying features without rooting or jailbreaking. While hardly many apps offer it, I have found a couple of them that offer AWESOME features without rooting or jailbreaking.

  1. Web Based Interface vs Software Download:

This is another feature that I focus on while choosing a spy app. Most apps make you download their software on your PC or smartphone to spy on the target phone.

However, there are some phone spy apps which have a completely web based interface. They can open in any web browser and offer all their features through the browser.

This makes sure that you can use these apps from any device of your choice. You don’t have to download the app again and again on all your devices.

Not only that, but it also saves you the risk of malware and virus downloads. Therefore, I would always suggest choosing web-based interface over software download.

  1. Pricing:

Pricing is an important factor to consider when you are choosing a phone spying app.

Some apps offer free phone spying functionality. However, such apps are only a waste of time. If you try them out, they will ask you to take human verification surveys which involve downloading malware-infected apps.

Therefore, if I were you, I would avoid free phone spy apps at all costs if I was serious about phone spying.

However, among paid apps, there are so many variations in prices. I prefer saving money and place weight on the price of an app. You need to find a balance between an app’s power and price.

  1. Android App Installation:

Being a technology geek, I know that you cannot spy an Android phone without installing an app on the target phone.

Therefore, if an app offers you Android spying without any app installation, I will never even try it out. It is surely a false claim.

  1. iOS App Installation:

For iPhones and iPads, I have been able to find some phone spy apps that don’t require any app installation at the target phone. Yes, it is possible in the case of iOS.

Therefore, I prefer phone spy apps that offer iOS spying without app installation as compared to other apps.

Now moving on to the apps, here are my pics for the top 10 places…

Part 2: Top Spy Apps For Phones Rated From Best to Worst

Spyic is by far the best phone spy app I have found on the internet. It is already used by millions of people all around the world. When I used this app, I wasn’t surprised why so many people use it.

To start with, Spyic is a phone monitoring application that works on both iOS and Android. It does not require you to root or jailbreak the target device.

You might be thinking that since it does not require rooting or jailbreaking, it must be compromising on the features, right? WRONG!

Spyic has more features than any other app on this list. It operates without rooting or jailbreaking just because of the superior technology used by its brilliant app developers.

What Spyic Offers:

Keylogger:

Spyic has this cool keylogger feature that I love. It keeps track of all the keystrokes that are made by the target user on their phone.

This even includes usernames, passwords, searches, and messages typed by the user.

Social Media Monitor:

There are dedicated modules for each of the social media apps inbuilt in the dashboard. You can individually check the user’s Facebook, Whatsapp, Snapchat, and any other social media platform’s chats and pictures.

Call Monitor:

Spyic gives you complete details about the calls that are received and made by the target phone. This is coupled with call details such as call duration, timestamps, and the caller identity.

As icing on the cake, it even allows you to record the user’s call. You will finally know what they are talking about.

Location Tracker

Location tracker keeps you updated about the live location of the user. It even shows you the latest locations along with the timestamps.

As you can see, Spyic has unmatchable features. You could hire a detective and he still wouldn’t provide this level of information.

You don’t have to take my word for it. After all, this is the internet and I could be wrong. Therefore, check Spyic in action in this free demo here and see it for yourself.

What Makes Spyic The #1 Phone Spy App?

Spyic is the best phone spy app without a doubt. Besides fulfilling all the criteria I mentioned in Part 1, it has a lot of other unique selling points as well. These include:

Quick and Easy installation:

Anyone can install and use Spyic without any technical knowledge. Its installation takes only a few minutes. Further, its setup wizard guides through most of the steps.

Simple Interface:

Spyic has a very simple dashboard interface. All the features are accessible through this dashboard. You can use the left panel on the dashboard to access these features. For example, if you want to spy on Facebook, you can use Facebook spy in Social Media tab on the dashboard.

Huge User base:

Spyic is used by millions of users all around the world. This makes me feel safe while using Spyic. If millions of users trust Spyic to keep their data secure, so can I.

Cheap Pricing:

Spyic pricing model is ultra cheap and affordable. Not only that but if you feel like Spyic isn’t suitable for you (which is very unlikely), you can unsubscribe at any time.

Now that you know how awesome Spyic can be, why don’t you go ahead and get it now? In case you feel that you need more convincing, you can check Spyic demo here completely free (no app download required).

2. Cocospy:

Cocospy is another cool hidden spy app (and a close competitor to Spyic). It has many cool features that will make you think twice about using any other app below it in this list.

Its beautiful interface and simplistic design caught my eye for the first time I saw it. However, I thought that something this simple wouldn’t hold many features.

I was completely wrong. When I used Cocospy, it was AWESOME. There are so many features accessible through a single dashboard.

You can do almost anything you want with the target phone. All their data is yours practically. You can view it and even download it to your system.

There are many other cool features. But that would make you think that I am biased as a fan of Cocospy. So why don’t you go ahead and check out what I am talking about?

It also fulfills all the parameters that I mentioned in part one. It does not require any root or jailbreak, which is just perfect.

If I were you looking for a phone spy app, I would be getting it now. You can do the same here.

**If you want to save more on the prices, opt for yearly plans as compared to monthly. You are going to use this app for long once you get started (cause its so good). Therefore, why not save more?**

3. Spytomobile:

Spytomobile gives some competition to our top two contenders (though not really a tough competition).

It terms itself as a mobile aggregation software that collects data of the target device. And it is not lying when it says that.

It can collect message data, call data, and tracks of the target devices. However, it misses many of the features that Spyic offers.

Further, this cell phone spy app also requires you to install their app on the target phone, no matter the target phone is Android or iOS. Well, I would deduct a point there.

Additionally, I found their interface a bit dull for my taste. Felt like you have gone back to the 90s computer systems.

4. Spyier:

Spyier is a mobile spy tool ONLY for Android (sorry iOS users). It aims for parents to monitor the phone activity of their children.

It enables you to monitor their calls, messages, browser history and few more things. It doesn’t require you to root the device.

The installation and the interface are simple to use. However, the fact that they serve only Android customers is a disappointment.

Further, they lack so many features that Spyic and Cocospy have to offer. I think Spyier should up their game to compete on the same tables.

5. Spyera:

Spyera is a phone spy tool for phones, computers, and tablets. It collects data of the target device while working in stealth mode.

The app has a web-based interface, meaning you can use it from any web browser on any device. It also sells new phones that are preloaded with Spyera (though I don’t think I would want one of these).

However, I was put off when I found out that it requires you to root the target phone if its an Android. If the target phone is an iPhone, you will need to jailbreak it.

This makes the Spyera installation process very hard if your phone isn’t rooted or jailbroken already.

For this major shortcoming, you would think they would cut down their price. However, it is actually the opposite.

Spyera costs double or triple the price of Spyic or Cocospy. And consider that the later work without requiring root or jailbreak.

I think Spyera has a long way to go to improve their technology significantly.

You May Like: How Can I Spy on a Cell Phone Without Installing Software on the Target Phone?

6. Mobile-Spy:

Mobile spy is a phone spy tool that works only for Android. It can keep an eye on the text messages, calls, location, and some other data of the target phone.

To be honest, it does not have much to offer in terms of features. But what it offers, it does well.

It is fine if you want to check only the browser history, location, and a few other things of the user. However, it is a good idea not to use this tool while expecting too much.

I feel they could improve their interface more. It doesn’t really look interactive at all. It feels like you have walked back a decade in terms of technology.

For their features, they should have given a concession on the pricing. However, it cost more than our topmost crown contenders.

7. Mobistealth:

Mobistealth is a phone spy app without target phone that is compatible with computers as well (though I would not suggest you use it for the latter). For phones, it is compatible with both Android and iOS.

It can track all the data of the target phone like social media chats, calls, location, etc. Also, it does not require you to root or jailbreak the target device.

The installation process is pretty easy as well. However, I wished they could improve more up on their dashboard design. If they are offering good features, why not present them well too?

The major disadvantage of this app that puts it this down in the list is its price. It offers not a single feature more than the best apps we have mentioned. However, it is one of the costliest tools in the list.

8. Copy9:

Copy9 is a phone spying tool that works only for Android. It is compatible with most Android devices.

It offers spying on the user’s social media accounts, chats, location, calls, and a few other features. It has a keylogger feature too.

However, as you might have guessed, if it is this good, there must be a downside. Well, there is.

Copy9 only works with rooted Android devices. Therefore, if the target phone isn’t rooted, you will need to root it.

This is pointless as if you are going to root it, the user will surely find out what you have done with it. I wouldn’t suggest rooting a phone.

But well, the app works if you are willing to root the phone. Although, with these compromises in features and technology, there is no compromise in price.

The tool is pricey and costs double as much as our top picks. This gives it the #8 spot on our list.

9. Auto Forward:

Auto forward is not a terrible spy app if what you want is something basic. It works for both Android and iOS.

It has basic functionality features like call monitoring, GPS monitoring, message monitoring, and a bit more.

It works similar to the top picks in our list. Though the features are very few as compared to Spyic and the interface is a bit cliche and boring.

Even then, the spy app asks for a pricey investment. It costs way more than Cocospy and Spyic combined.

I think if they lowered its price it might give a better (though not equal) competition to the top apps.

10. Hellospy:

When I used Hellospy, I felt that it is not so bad. It is compatible with both iPhone and Android. It has many features including location monitor, message monitor, social media monitor, etc.

While it isn’t that bad for Android, I would never use it for iOS. To use Hellospy on an iPhone or an iPad, it requires that the target device is jailbroken.

While they have a web-based interface which works in their favor, needing to jailbreak the target iPhone isn’t something I would sign up for.

But well, if you feel that Hellospy is for you, you can use it per your will. Although, they are also hefty on the pricing part.

Verdict

I think you might have concluded the verdict even before reaching this section. You have seen all the apps and you know what they can do.

You know their plus points and their weakness. Based on that, it is not really tough to choose a winner.

I think we can all unanimously agree that the best phone spy race is clearly won by Spyic. And that too, by a huge margin.

Spyic does not compromise anywhere. It has the best in terms of features, technology, interface, installation, and ease of use. Yet, it is the absolute cheapest app on the list. For a minute I even wondered if the owners are doing the people a favour by selling it so cheap.

But well, it is not our concern. All you and I should concentrate on is what we are getting. And at this moment, I think I would go with Spyic with my eyes shut.

I got it from here, you can get it too.

The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post both ran breathless exposes in the past week detailing how iPhone apps — horrors! — collect your personal data and send it God-knows-where.

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

“In a single week, I encountered over 5,400 trackers” on an iPhone, the Post’s Geoffrey Fowler wrote.

“Most are littered with secret trackers, slurping up your personal data and sending it to more places than you can count,” wrote the Journal’s Joanna Stern.

MORE: 15 Best Mobile Privacy and Security Apps

To which I say: Duh. This is what third-party smartphone apps do. We Android users are used to this. And many of know better than to rely on Google’s assertions that everything is perfect with Android’s privacy settings.

Likewise, you shouldn’t believe Apple when it tells you it will protect your privacy on an iPhone. It won’t. It can’t.

Why not? Because you’re on a smartphone. James Bond’s gadget guy Q couldn’t have designed a better surveillance device.

The heart of the problem

Your smartphone always knows where you are, where you’re going, what you’re reading, what’s going on around you, whom you’re talking to and what you’re saying. It has a broadband internet connection for transmitting all that data to the entire world.

Almost every app you download from the App Store or Google Play store will use those surveillance features to make money. Mostly, the apps will show you ads. But the ads themselves are keeping track of where you are and what you do online. The more the ad brokers know about you, the more they can charge for the ads that pop up on your phone, and the more money the app makers earn.

Last fall, I saw a presentation at a security conference in which a researcher showed how, for about $100, he could locate and track any individual through smartphone ads. He used an Android phone in the demonstration, but the same technique will work on an iPhone.

Google and Apple swear up and down that they screen their app stores to weed out developers who abuse this sort of thing. And they do kick out the most abusive ones — often after those app developers are singled out in the media as abusive.

But Google and Apple can’t stop all personal-data collection by third-party ads. App developers need to do this to make money. That’s how they can afford to give the apps away, or charge just a few bucks (of which Apple and Google take a big cut) to each user.

What you can do to protect your privacy

So what can you do about this? Well, you can accept that apps will harvest a lot of personal data about you. This entails accepting that your privacy is already gone, as a speaker at a different security conference put it, and that you just haven’t realized it.

Or you can try to minimize the exposure, even if you can’t entirely eliminate it. You can install only those apps you know you really will use. If there’s a choice between a free version and a paid version, choose the paid version of an app — it may be less intrusive, although the Journal’s Joanna Stern didn’t see any difference. You can also regularly audit the apps you have installed and remove those that you no longer use.

You can also minimize the tracking by turning off features you don’t need, such as GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, when you don’t need them. Your phone uses those to figure out where you are, and some retail establishments use Bluetooth and Wi-Fi signals to track shoppers moving through a store or a shopping mall.

Your phone will still be able to get a general sense of your vicinity by noting which cellphone towers you connect to, but that’s much less fine-grained that GPS or Wi-Fi-based location tracking.

The nuclear option

If that’s not enough, you can eliminate third-party apps altogether. Google’s and Apple’s own apps will track you, too, but at least you know who’s getting the data. You can still access many of your favorite services, such as Facebook or Amazon, through the mobile browsers that come with each device.

Or you can ditch the smartphone altogether and get a feature phone with the most basic calling, texting, calendar and maybe email functions. I’ve met security researchers who do this (although most use iPhones). Some celebrities have been spotted using feature phones in the past few years too. Maybe they know something we don’t.

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Make sure your smartphone apps aren’t spying on you

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

There have been some rumblings recently about smartphone apps using your phone’s microphone to collect data on your TV- and movie-watching choices.

The New York Times wrote about software from a company called Alphonso that collects data to sell to advertisers.

The apps in question are mostly games. They seem harmless, but if you grant permission for those apps to use your phone’s microphone, they can listen to your life through the phone—even when the app isn’t being used.

The Alphonso software can hear audio tones embedded in our video content to identify what we are watching.

According to the article, Alphonso’s spokesman says they don’t record speech, but I’m guessing most of us do not want our privacy invaded by games like Real Bowling Strike 10 Pin.

So what can you do to protect yourself?

Pay attention to what happens when you install a new app.

When you install apps from the Google Play store and iTunes App store, they will ask you if you’d like to grant permission for the app to use your phone’s microphone.

iOS apps will ask you during installation, while Android apps should ask the first time they launch.

CHECK YOUR SETTINGS

You’ll want to make sure you know which apps are using your microphone.

On iOS devices, you’ll open Settings, then open Privacy and then open Microphone.

You’ll see a list of apps that you’ve given permission to use the microphone.

On Android 6 and newer, you’ll open Settings, then Apps.

You’ll see a list of apps, but you’ll have to open each one and look for that app’s Permissions line to see what permissions you’ve given it.

You can also get to each app’s permissions by pressing and holding on the app’s icon and then choosing App Info from the pop-up menu.

I’ll admit I was a bit surprised at the list on my iPhone. I have six apps on my phone that use the microphone. The only app that surprised me was Instagram. I forgot I gave Instagram permission to use the microphone when it added the ability to record video clips with audio.

If you see an app using your microphone, and you are not sure why, touch the slider to turn off the app’s microphone access. If you decide to turn it on again, you can do so by going back to the same spot.

Explore further

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Citation: Make sure your smartphone apps aren’t spying on you (2018, January 12) retrieved 1 February 2020 from https://phys.org/news/2018-01-smartphone-apps-spying.html This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Many smartphone apps don’t cost anything to download and use. But don’t be fooled: There’s still a price. “Your privacy is what’s paying for it,” says Brian Krupp. He’s a computer engineer at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio. Behind the scenes, he says, apps are “leaky.” They may deliberately collect more data than they need. Then they send those personal data to advertising companies — without a user’s knowledge — generating money for the app’s maker.

Krupp wants people to know where their data go. He recently led the development of a new online tool that does just that. He and his students call it SPEProxy. It tells people when their apps are sending data, which can help spot misuse. It also offers ways to better protect personal data. It gives phone users control over where their data go, and which data are shared.

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The computer code that directs how data are used often is buried deep in an app’s software. The new tool developed by Krupp and his team acts like cyber “tweezers.” It can find that buried code, says Selcuk Uluagac. He did not work on the new tool but can appreciate its value. As a computer engineer at Florida International University, in Miami, he studies security for smart devices and other computer systems.

“We need such tools,” says Uluagac. Even though users click “I Agree” to let apps collect data, they have no way of knowing where those data go. They don’t know if or when their data are being misused. Krupp’s online tool can help raise a person’s awareness of all that sharing and selling, he says.

Behind the screen

Smartphones store a lot of personal data. Those devices know our names, the names of our friends, our address — and where we are, right now. Some apps use those data to do their job. A weather app needs to know where a person is to report the local forecast, for example. But those same apps may often send such data on to advertisers as well. Those advertisers will pay well to know how people behave and live.

Krupp agrees that it is important for phone and tablet users to know where their data go. Once data leave a device, “you can’t get it back,” he says. And that data theft may not be harmless. Those data may reveal when someone leaves home and when they get back. They can show how — and where — people spend their days. Social media sites often have access to a user’s images and posts.

Researchers have begun building smartphone programs that track the misuse of such data. However, those tools require someone to “jailbreak” their phone. That means they have to take the phone apart and change the way its computer or software works. Most people don’t know how to do that. And many of the others would not be comfortable breaking into their phones. Why? Jailbreaking may void a phone’s warranty.

“We wanted to find a solution that doesn’t require a jailbreak,” says Krupp. SPEProxy identifies the misuse of data using an approach that has already been used in medicine to diagnose illness. That medical software collected data from a patient’s blood samples and from other measurements. Then it compared them to those typical of many possible illnesses to make a diagnosis.

Krupp’s group has now built a new computer program that tracks how apps leak data. It allows users to see what data are leaked, and where they go. It also lets a user limit what type of data an app can access from the phone.

Krupp presented SPEProxy to other engineers and computer scientists at a meeting in October 2017. People in the audience immediately reached for their phones to check on their apps, he says.

Right now, people can only track data with the new tool by going to a website. That means it’s limited. It’s also a bit awkward to use. People may not want to go to the trouble of getting online to track their data. Krupp and his team want to make using it easier. They’re working on a version that people could install on their phones.

He’s also planning to run a study this spring on how people might use the new tool. Participants will get to download and install it on their phones to learn which of their apps may be misusing their data. Krupp wants to know what happens next: “Will users act differently if they’re informed?”

He hopes so. His goals, he explains, are to “provide awareness and protect information.” The new tool has already changed the way he uses his phone. Using the tool, Krupp has seen programs like Facebook and Twitter collect data about where he is, and when — even though that information didn’t affect how he scrolled through his friends’ feeds. As a result of what he’s learned, he says, “I greatly limit my social media .”