China’s awkwardly-named Data Center of China Internet (DCCI) released a new report on Wednesday about Android apps in the country, and things do not look good. The report details DCCI’s findings in an investigation of the top 1400 apps across China’s various Android markets and found that 66.9 percent of the apps were tracking users’ private data, and 34.5 percent of them were doing what DCCI calls “cross-border data tracking”; tracking private data that has no discernable connection to the app’s function and generally not making users aware that it’s happening.
So what kind of information are these apps pulling from your phone? Basically everything. Your text message history, your phone records, all the information in your address book and more could be up for grabs and one quarter of China’s most popular apps are looking at this data even when it has nothing to do with the apps’ functionality. Worried yet?
If not, here’s some more information: the report looked at each data-tracking function individually and found that, for example, more than half of the apps were tracking user locations, and 13.2 percent were doing so even though user location has no connection whatsoever to the app’s functionality. 21.2 percent of apps will check out your address book, 18.1 percent are reading your call records, nearly 12 percent are reading your text history, and some are even sending texts (14.7 percent) or making calls (14.7 percent) for you. In each of these categories, a significant percentage of the apps are doing these things secretly, even though there’s no reason for them to be doing them at all. You can see the specific breakdowns in the chart below, which we have translated and annotated for clarity:
And the apps responsible may not be the ones you expect, either. Study and beauty apps, for example, were among the worst offenders when it comes to location-tracking, and travel apps are among the worst when it comes to swiping your contacts list.
So, are you horrified yet? If not, you’re welcome to browse the full report (you’ll need a Weibo account to see it) and see just how deep the rabbit hole goes. If you need me, I’ll just be curled up in the corner shivering and thinking about what these app makers are doing with all of my data.