Since 2015, Sensor Tower has owned at least 20 Android and iOS apps.
Four of these — Free and Unlimited VPN, Luna VPN, Mobile Data, and Adblock
Focus — were recently available in the Google Play store. Adblock Focus and
Luna VPN were in Apple’s App Store. Apple removed Adblock Focus and Google
removed Mobile Data after being contacted by BuzzFeed News. The companies said they
continue to investigate.
Once installed, Sensor Tower’s apps prompt users to install a root certificate. This is a small file that lets its issuer access all traffic and data passing through a phone. The company told BuzzFeed News it only collects anonymised usage and analytics data, which is integrated into its products. Sensor Tower’s app intelligence platform is used by developers, venture capitalists, publishers, and others to track the popularity, usage trends, and revenue of apps.
What is wrong with this?
We are not accusing Sensor Tower of collecting personally identifiable
information. Still, by not disclosing it owned these apps and disguising them
as VPN or Ad-blockers then it is deceptive.
It is not the first time apps have been used to collect data. Facebook’s Onavo free VPN is a classic case of spying on users. Other companies use free games, weather apps, and more to spy.
Internet privacy is an oxymoron.
At a minimum
Never install a free app without reading its privacy agreement
Do not give an app access to contacts, mail or any other private information
Never use Facebook, Twitter, Apple ID, Google or other social media to sign into other supposedly unconnected sites (single sign-on)
Sign out of any browser logins before browsing
Use In-private Windows for browsing
Run AdBlock Plus, Ghostery, DoNotTrackMe, or similar
Use in private browsing mode and privacy settings to maximum
Use Shutup10 and turn everything off except Windows Updates