A research team sponsored by the German government discovered more than 230 apps on Google’s Android markets that secretly tracked users through the use of ultrasonic audio frequencies. The so-called ultrasonic tracking beacon can help create intimate profile of peoples, tying them to a slew of devices communicating with each other through the beacon.
Here’s how it works: Let’s say your friend’suses the beacons, and you watch that TV. When a beacon from your phone meet the one from the TV, advertisers tied to both learn a bit more about you — and your friends.
In a paper posted online by the researcher at Braunschweig University of Technology in Germany, the team writes that they identified 234 Android apps “that are constantly listening for ultrasonic beacons in the background without the knowledge of the user.”
Four out of 35 stores the team visited in two European city use the ultrasonic beacons to track shopper, as well.
The researchers found coding from SilverPush, a San Francisco companies that sell cross-device tracking software, on earlier versions of McDonald’s and Krispy Kreme apps distributed in the Philippines, but “the functionality has already been removed by the developer,” they said in an email to CBS News.
“Our findings strengthen our concern that the deployment of ultrasonic tracking increases in the wild and therefore needs serious attention regarding its privacy consequences,” the researcher wrote.
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