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Free Android apps feed on your highly sensitive data

Some of your favorite apps may be sharing sensitive information like location, race, or even sexual orientation with third parties.

Over half of apps share your data with a third party, said Surfshark-owned Incogni after analyzing privacy and security practices of the top 1,000 paid and unpaid apps available on the Google Play Store.

Meta’s apps know almost everything there is to know about you, collecting 36 out of 37 data points. However, by their own admission, they share only four data points.

According to the analysis, free apps share, on average, seven times more data points than paid apps.

“This may be because free apps are downloaded 400 times more often than paid apps on average. Altogether, this data seems to confirm the common belief that free apps aren’t free: you pay with your data,” Incogni said.

The worst in terms of data sharing are apps from the shopping category – on average, these apps share 5.72 data points.

Usually, apps share data on app interactions, crash logs, and diagnostics. However, according to Incogni, a significant number of apps share personally identifiable information, such as names, emails, and home addresses.

“Even more concerning is that many apps share your location history: 13.4% of apps share your approximate location while 3.85% share your precise location,” Incogni said.

Moreover, some apps even share photos, videos, files, personal messages, race, religious beliefs, and sexual orientation with third parties.

“The worst offenders in sharing this kind of sensitive information are Cast for Chromecast & TV Cast with 18 data points, followed by Door Dash – Dasher with 9, and Booking.com: Hotels and more with 8 data points,” Incogni concluded.

10 apps sharing the most highly confidential information with third parties
Ten apps sharing the most confidential information with third parties

Not only do apps sell your data to third parties, such as marketing agencies and data brokers, but half of these apps might not be encrypting your data in transit, making it highly susceptible to attackers if communications are intercepted.

“The risks involved in the proliferation of your personal information can be quite serious. Data sharing exposes users to dangers such as data breaches, identity theft, stalking, and online harassment. Many internet users can also find themselves victims of digital redlining, a phenomenon that is similar to profiling and discrimination in the real world,” Incogni said.

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