An academic study of about one million Android apps reveals that most apps contain third-party tracking code.
News apps and apps targeted at children seem to be the worst of all in terms of the number of tracking trackers contained in them.
The research was conducted by the University of Oxford by a team of academics who researched 959.426 Android apps from the official Google Play Store. The researchers analyzed the applications and domains that alerted them from their code.
From the early stages of research, researchers observed that almost all applications were using tracking trackers and decided that research should not identify the percentage of applications that used tracking code but the percentage of trackers used by each application.
So they found that the average number of trackers per application was 10 and that 90,4% of the apps included at least one tracker. 17,9% of apps contained more than 20.
They also found that 13 applications had more than 30 trackers, but after a careful analysis of each application, they concluded that these applications had different types of services in "all-in-one" packages. In this way they loaded all the trackers from all services together.
The usual suspects
Oxford researchers found that the vast majority of trackers belong to large parent companies, either directly or through intermediaries.
The most popular names in the mobile tracking scene are of course Alphabet (Google's parent company), Facebook (42,55 percent), Twitter (33,88 percent), Verizon (26,27 percent), Microsoft (22,75 percent) percent) and Amazon (17,91 percent).
The researchers categorized 49 Play Store app classes into eight larger types, which were easier to analyze.
According to their reclassification, news apps and family-related apps (usually directed to children) averaged most trackers, with an average of seven per application.
"Given the higher level of protection set by child marketing law, it appears that application detection is not working or that regulators should be more interested in limiting it," the Oxford team said.
View the survey (PDF).