Recipe Apps On Android Have Developed A Taste For Tracking Users

A recent investigation found cooking and recipe apps on Android are sharing far too much user data, and fixing the problem is down to Google.

Cooking and recipe apps are fairly useful, but some of the most popular Android apps in this category might be more interested in sharing a worryingly high amount of user data with advertisers than helping them bake a holiday cake, according to a recent investigation. Tracking user behavior across apps and websites to serve them targeted ads is a huge business, with Google and Facebook some of the biggest stakeholders.

Although the privacy implications are huge, trading user data in black markets is quite a cash-rich endeavor. Apple took a positive step in this fight with the debut of its App Transparency framework earlier this year, allowing users to decide if they want an app to track them. The move was praised, and even though it isn’t fool-proof, users seem to appreciate it. Android has no such system in place yet, and a lot of apps — the cooking and recipe category, in particular — are taking full advantage of the situation.


Related: Android Gets Anti-Tracking Feature Thanks To DuckDuckGo App

According to an investigation by Mozilla, cooking and recipe apps on Android are tracking and transmitting user activity like there’s no tomorrow. At the app level, Recipes Home, Allrecipes, and Food Network Kitchen were the ones that shared the highest amount of user data. Out of the eight cooking apps tested by Mozilla’s experts, six of them were spotted transmitting details including device ID, location (down to the latitude and longitude), and device details such as brand name, model number, and even the Android version. Some of the apps were even caught relaying behavioral data like viewing habits, number of clicks, and scroll time.

A Free-For-All User Data Buffet

Android cooking apps

As part of the investigation, experts picked eighteen of the most popular free cooking apps in the Play Store’s Food & Drink section and then narrowed the list down to the following eight: Allrecipes, Food Network Kitchen, BBC Good Food, Recipes Home, Whisk, KptnCook, Crockpot Recipes, and Flipp. All the apps that were analyzed came loaded with third-party trackers, but some of them were a little too generous with extracting the amount of user activity data. At the tracking level, Amazon Ads was the most enthusiastic considering it sent data parsing requests after every third second while using the Allrecipes Dinner Spinner app. The Recipes Home was among the worst offenders as trackers embedded in its code harvested everything from battery level and charging status to whether headphones were plugged in and exactly how users interacted with ads.

The sheer diversity of data being collected by these recipe and cooking apps is astounding. To put it into perspective, information shared included country, carrier, model and make of a device, OS version, email addresses, screen size and resolution, language, screen orientation, device ID, Google ad ID, location, time zone, battery level, display brightness, and volume levels, to name a few. In some cases, a tracker also wanted to know if the device is carrier-locked or jailbroken. Mozilla’s research concludes that “third party tracking on mobile apps has ballooned out of control” and the responsibility to enforce anti-tracking barriers within the Android ecosystem falls on the gatekeeper, Google.

Next: How To Turn Off Google’s Android Location Tracking & Why You Should

Source: Mozilla

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