Understanding the basis of how app store analytics platforms, for instance, App Annie and Sensor Tower, sparks anxiety. These platforms try to get an estimate of how people use their smartphones. For example, Sensor Tower advertises itself as “the leading provider of market intelligence and insights for the global app economy.”

A study by BuzzFeedNews has revealed that the app store analytics firm, Sensor Tower, uses VPN and ad blocking apps to collect data on millions of unsuspecting users. The analytics firm reportedly owns several popular apps that have been downloaded by millions across the Google Play Store and the App Store.

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The company owns a portfolio of 20 apps across both mobile app stores since 2015; the report found out.

Some honorable mentions include;

  • Free and Unlimited VPN(Only Android)
  • Luna VPN
  • Mobile Data (Android only)
  • Adblock Focus

Basically, after the installation of the app, it prompts users to install additional files like Luna VPN to obtain access to extra features. These extra features often require root access which is then used to access traffic and data across the device.

After Google and Apple got hold of the news, they have removed some of the apps mentioned.

Apple has already nixed Adblock Focus from the App Store, while Google has removed Mobile Data. Other mentioned apps are said to be under investigation by the respective companies, according to the report.

Root access is a significant violation of Google’s and Apple’s guidelines because of the security risk it poses to the end-users.

Disclosure

Collecting the data and staying true to the purpose is essential. Sensor Tower doesn’t mention that it collects user data, which seems like the primary purpose of their apps. Randy Nelson says they avoid mentioning they own the apps to stay competitive on the market. So in case, you can’t know who is the publisher behind your VPN or Ad blocking apps simply uninstall the app.

Also, not every app on your phone should have access to everything. Like there is no way your VPN should require access to your contacts, for example.

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