A recent Buzzfeed article points out that several popular Android apps available on the Google Play Store have been collecting and storing sensitive user data without encryption or permission.
This particular instance is more alarming than previous—not only are some of the most-downloaded apps on the Google Play Store implicated in the report, they also happen to be developed by Chinese companies that may be sharing collected data with the Chinese government.
These are the apps that have been implicated in Buzzfeed’s investigation. If you have any of these installed on your phone, delete them now:
Don’t feel bad if yours were among the nearly 100 million combined downloads for these apps. The developers obfuscated otherwise damning information—such as country of origin and the company who owns the app—that would normally raise red flags.
However, as Buzzfeed’s investigation points out, each app asked for way too many app permissions, including “dangerous” permissions like location data, access to phone sensors, or personal contact information. This is an indicator of a suspicious app.
Google blacklisted six of the above apps—Selfie Camera, Total Cleaner, Smart Cooler, RAm Master, AIO Flashlight, and Omni Cleaner—in response to Buzzfeed’s reporting, and updated how it will evaluate permissions and developer accounts going forward, but even so, it seems to be far too easy for malicious developers to dupe the Google Play Store.
Here are our recommendations for staying smart about your app downloads: