How Smartphone Apps Track Users and Share Data

by Sachin

A few years ago, most people thought that apps don’t pull data from devices and share them with other apps, but they were proved wrong soon enough. With multiple huge court cases about data sharing, the world has finally realized that apps do mine data and use them for their benefits.

If one app mines the data, it shares it with another 10 to 20 apps online. While a similar issue with websites was fixed a few years ago, phone apps somehow slipped below the radar and continued mining user data in complete secrecy. 

Why Is Data Sharing a Thing?

Well, it largely depends on the nature of apps. Most popular apps have changed how they make money from making microtransactions to the so-called “freemium” model. Instead of making money through paid users, most apps depend on advertising to survive, which has pushed data sharing into a completely new dimension.

The data that gets shared is so extensive and so unregulated, sometimes even the developers behind the app won’t know what’s going on. All this data is then collected by various digital advertising groups, data brokers, and all kinds of intermediaries that make money from selling data. Today, data mining is available at affordable prices, so even smaller companies and businesses can use it to improve their offers.

What was started as a legitimate business has quickly entered a gray area where it’s hard to pinpoint what’s going on. That has made the entire industry very chaotic, and most users can’t follow what’s going on. 

Instead of questioning if an app they use is “stealing” their data, they allow it to access data, camera albums, and so on.

Most collected data is then re-sold by third party companies for a considerable profit. The mined data includes all kinds of details such as profile information, gender, age, location, internet usage data, details about Wi-Fi routers, and information about all other installed apps on your device. 

When you consider that there are well over 10 million apps on the market right now, it’s clear that data mining and sharing is a huge thing. The apps that mine the most data are, of course, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon. They are closely followed by Google, Microsoft, and many other IT companies. The biggest companies use subsidiaries to collect data so that most users don’t know who is behind the company. 

All of the data collected by these smaller companies are then transferred directly to the leading companies in the industry that then use the data as they see fit. 

Today, many companies such as Webhose specialize in collecting specific data to improve machine learning and allow better market research, web monitoring, and so on. These practices do provide all kinds of benefits, but they use mined data to get things done.

What Is This Data Used For?

Mined user data can be used by companies to understand the market better and improve their offers and features so that they get control over the entire monopoly. Not only that, but the data can also be used to create digital profiles of each user.

By doing that, search engines and IT companies can create detailed algorithms designed to improve the user experience for all online activities. That’s the story that we can hear today, but is that really what’s going on?

Let’s say that a company extracts personal data from a dating app. Then, the parent company gets the extracted data and data from another app, such as a banking app. When the data is combined, the parent company will reveal the gender of the user. 

One detail here, one detail there, and before you know it, the most prominent companies have enough pieces of personal information to create detailed profiles of millions of users.

All of this keeps happening as long as your phone is turned on, and there’s nothing you can do about it. The harsh reality is that the internet works like this, and the only thing you can do to protect your sensitive data from reaching one of these companies is to stop using your smartphone right now.

The Bottom Line

The future trends of data mining and its applications are undeniable. All of the data collected will most likely be used to control the information available to the end-user. 

However, it can also be used to improve the user experience, collect critical information about human behavior, and help us understand how the future will look like in just a few short years. One thing is for sure; we will see where everything will end up sooner than you might think.

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