Hundreds of mobile apps include tracking software that collects end-user data that’s anonymized and is sold to the United States government…
A recent news report published by The Wall Street Journal reveals that more than 500 hundred mobile applications carry hidden tracking code. It’s there because one federal contractor, Anomaly Six, pays mobile developers to write-in its proprietary tracking software within the apps they build. The trackers then collect anonymized data from end-users and Anomaly Six aggregates that information, then sells it to the US government.
Hundreds of Mobile Apps Contain Government-Tracking Code that Collects Anonymized User Data
Although the WSJ makes it crystal clear that the tracking software is embedded in over five-hundred mobile applications, it does not provide a list of them. Also, Anomaly Six wouldn’t disclose the app developers it partners with, either. Even the WSJ couldn’t uncover the partner creators through other investigatory methods. So, it’s unknown which apps contain the tracking code and which actually pass the data off to Anomaly Six for the company to aggregate and sell anonymized.
Of course, this begs the questions if this practice is legal and if so, what is the US government doing with that data? The likely answer to the first question is that the law is way behind technology, so it’s probably legal in one respect or another. (Even if it’s not totally on the up-and-up, there’s not much that specifically prohibits the practice.)
As to its purpose, perhaps it’s for law enforcement, or counter-terrorism, but that too, is unknown. Anomaly Six isn’t answering any questions, citing confidentiality, even though what it’s doing isn’t technically classified.