If You Downloaded an Ad Blocker or VPN From This Company, Your Data Isn’t Secure

A BuzzFeed News report calls out Sensor Tower for "secretly harvesting" user data

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According to Buzzfeed News, Sensor Tower has been secretly collecting data through Android and iOS apps.
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By Kirk Miller / March 11, 2020 6:30 am

If you installed an ad blocker or a virtual private network (VPN) to maintain your data and online privacy … well, we have some bad news for you.

Your information may have been secretly harvested, according to a new investigation by BuzzFeed News. In their report, the site calls out Sensor Tower, an analytics platform, which has used at least 20 Android and iOS apps to secretly collect data. The company did not make their association known to people downloading the apps, who might have turned down something from a company touting that it provides “data that drives app growth.”

The problem with these apps — and by the way, you shouldn’t feel safe using free VPNs ever — is that they ask the user for root privileges, which basically lets the company access all your traffic and data. A rep of Sensor Tower claims all the info collected was anonymized and not “sensitive” or personally identifiable data.

Asking for root certificate privileges goes against the standards set up by both Google and Apple in their app stores, but Sensor Tower was able to get around this by asking users to install a certificate through an external website.

(A sample of the type of analytics Sensor Tower performs can be found here).

The apps — which include Free and Unlimited VPN, Adblock Focus and Luna VPN — had more than 35 million downloads before being pulled from the Google Play and Apple App Store.

(Note: The post has been updated with a different tweet that better reflects Sensor Tower’s analytics business).

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