Privacy: Identifying tracers on Android

You know, I started a series for Living Without Google. It's more about getting as much control of our privacy as possible than targeting the internet giant. However, many other companies exploit our privacy with tracers without us knowing it, especially on our Android smartphones. A French site discovered this summer allows us to take over: Exodus. Follow the trail…

Tracers: leaks in our private lives

Several scandals have animated the web in recent months. Often linked to Facebook and its policy of tracking activities, the fact remains that many companies provide designers with tracking services to pay them with our personal data: Le Monde. While Facebook and Google remain the main players in this market, the Exodus site lists just over 200. Some are not intended to trace our privacy, but more to provide technical information to designers to improve their system. However, no one really knows what the applications we install ship as tracers as well as the information we provide for free.

One thing to note: you don't need to be registered on these tracking sites to be spied on. Facebook trackers are present in many applications. You don't need to be registered at home to be spied on: ZDNet, Privacy International.

Exodus Privacy: Tracing tracers

It's hard to guard against these snippets unless you know if they are present on our applications. This is where Exodus Privacy comes in. Exodus Privacy is a French non-profit association that aims to analyze free Android apps (this is important to note) and inform us about the trackers present in this application as well as the permissions it asks for to work on our smartphone.

Find an app

You can check your apps on this page: search applications. Simply enter your app's name or ID from the Play Store. Take the Météo France app, for example.

With the search field, I find the application to check either with its name or with its code in the Play Store.

For Météo France, search by name refers many results. You have to paste the two names to properly filter the list.

EXODUS PRIVACY: Master your privacy on Android

Conversely, searching with the correct application code directly returns the right results.

EXODUS PRIVACY: Master your privacy on Android

To find the application code, it's easy. go to the Play Store and search your app page. Once opened, the app code is in the address bar after the word details. It is highlighted in yellow in the next screenshot.

Once clicked on the app, the site presents all the already scanned versions of the application as well as the number of trackers and permissions for each. If you're up to date on your phone, this is the latest version that interests us. Note the color code applied to each item. This page also allows you to see if the situation gets worse or better with versions with sometimes surprises.

EXODUS PRIVACY: Master your privacy on Android

By clicking on a version, you will have the details of tracers installed as well as all the permissions required. Regarding Météo France, we see that by opening the application, we expose ourselves to sending data to Google, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter and 7 other services. Interesting to ask the question of the use of another weather information service …

EXODUS PRIVACY: Master your privacy on Android

A word about permissions to access the phone. They would be less of a problem if we had no doubts about the data the app transmits to outside.

Exodus Privacy App: Evaluate your Android

Some will tell me: it's good, but a little heavy to look for the features of each application installed. Exodus Privacy makes your life easier by offering you an app to install on your phones that will scan all your applications. It's this way: Exodus Privacy App.

Of course, it is possible to scan the Exodus Privacy app. Here is its report: 0 tracker and 2 permissions (logical since it must access the Internet).

EXODUS PRIVACY: Master your privacy on Android

Submit an app

Even stronger (or almost) your app is not listed or the latest version is not available: you can start the evaluation yourself and enrich the database. It's happening here: submit an app.

EXODUS PRIVACY: Master your privacy on Android

To add your just look for it on the playstore from your Browser. Once on the app page, copy-paste the address in Exodus search bar and let it do it. Beware, Exodus cannot scanner than free apps since it can't charge directly paid applications.

Find "clean" apps

Exodus offers statistics on its analyses on its website. We find a lot of things including the list of applications free of any tracker. Hence the right question: should we only use applications without trackers?

EXODUS PRIVACY: Master your privacy on Android

Application report

EXODUS PRIVACY: Master your privacy on Android

Applications without trackers

First of all, it's almost impossible. Already, a number of applications are almost such as bank or VOD applications (although some are). So we'll have to accept the leaks.

Second, some tracers are not directly related to the exploitation of our personal data, but serve as a "technological" watch, bringing problems and usage parameters back to designers to improve their applications. So how do you tell the difference? It's very complicated. Exodus on its website offers for some the detail of tracers with their function. We must avoid the terms: ad, advertising, monetization, identity, data collection, etc.

EXODUS PRIVACY: Master your privacy on Android

It's up to you to control your privacy

It's up to you. The less now you know who's spying on you. And you might have Surprises. As far as I was, I was stunned to see the application of my bank 17 trackers, mainly ad trackers. I understand its very low rates better… It's hard at the moment to do without it, but I have leads. And applications from across the Atlantic are not necessarily the most "charged." Research applications French newspapers, for example, some major dailies.

To go back to Exodus Privacy, as a non-profit organization, it is therefore looking for funding. You can help them directly here: contribute by different means of payment. A good idea, the shop where a large part of the purchases are donated to the association.

In a future article I'll tell you how to do to get away from some of these indiscreet applications.

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