Warning over weather app as experts find it's collecting 'unusual' amounts of data from users

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Warning over popular weather app as experts find Chinese Android software is collecting ‘unusual’ amounts of data from users around the world

  • The Android app is called ‘Weather Forecast – World Weather Accurate Radar’
  • It has logged 10 million downloads and 45,000 reviews on the Google Play Store
  • The app collects users’ geographic location, email address and unique device number and was also signing some users up for services without their consent

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One of the world’s most popular Android weather apps has been collecting massive amounts of user data without their consent.

The free app, called ‘Weather Forecast – World Weather Accurate Radar,’ has been found to be siphoning off detailed data from users, including their geographic locations, email addresses and their device’s unique identifier number, according to the Wall Street Journal.

‘Weather Forecast – World Weather Accurate Radar’ is one of the most-downloaded apps on Google‘s Play Store, logging 10 million downloads and nearly 46,000 reviews on the service.

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One of the world’s most popular Android apps, called ‘Weather Forecast – World Weather Accurate Radar,’ has been collecting massive amounts of user data without their consent

The app is developed by Chinese tech conglomerate TCL Communication Technology Holdings Ltd., which is the manufacturer of Alcatel and Blackberry smartphones.

A London-based security firm, Upstream Systems, first discovered that the app was collecting user data without obtaining appropriate consent.

Upstream also found that the weather app would try to subscribe over 100,000 users of its Alcatel smartphones to paid virtual-reality services, according to the Journal.

Many users affected by this included those in Brazil, Malaysia and Nigeria.

Upstream told the Journal that had it not identified this shadowy practice, users could have been forced to front more than £1.5 million in charges.

TCL has since updated the app in the Play store and stopped subscribing users to services, but it still appears to be collecting sensitive user data.

Warning over weather app as experts find it's collecting 'unusual' amounts of data from users

The app is developed by Chinese tech conglomerate TCL Communication Technology Holdings Ltd., which is the manufacturer of Alcatel and Blackberry smartphones

It’s common practice for weather apps to request a user’s location, so that it can serve up local weather alerts and forecasts.

However, ‘Weather Forecast – World Weather Accurate Radar’ appears to be collecting extraordinarily specific information from its users.

TCL didn’t comment on it signing up users for subscription services, but told the Journal it’s ‘evaluating new security consultants who can provide additional validation of the safety of our mobile applications we develop.’

Experts warn that users should beware of apps that collect too much of their data in the background without their knowledge.

‘I wouldn’t install that app,’ Michael Covington, an executive at mobile security firm Wandera, told the Journal.

ARE ANDROID APPS SHARING YOUR DATA WITH FACEBOOK?

Some popular Android apps have been sharing data with Facebook without users’ permission, a new study has found.

Privacy International, a UK-based campaign group, found that TripAdvisor, Kayak, and MyFitnessPal are just a few of the many Android apps that are sending sensitive user data to Facebook.

In some cases, the apps were sharing private data with the social media giant even if users didn’t have a Facebook account.

Privacy International conducted a review of 34 popular Android apps and found that at least 21, or 61 percent, of them began collecting data from users as soon as they opened the app – and before users gave permission to do so.

‘This happens whether people have a Facebook account or not, or whether they are logged into Facebook or not,’ the firm explained.

When an app is opened, the data that is initially sent typically includes things like the fact that a Facebook SDK (Software Developer Kit) is running.

It also reveals information like what kind of device a user is using, the software version running on the device, as well as the screen resolution.

‘It’s really questionable when an app that has such a benign functionality is taking information that is uniquely identifiable.’

It follows an earlier report that some Android apps share user data with Facebook without users’ consent.

This reportedly included the likes of MyFitnessApp, TripAdvisor and Kayak.

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