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Uninstalling spy apps does not protect against surveillance
Developers can use third-party tools to track users, even if they recently uninstalled one of their apps. According to a Bloomberg report, the so-called “uninstall trackers” help the app companies to bombard the dropped users with ads that aim to regain them.
Both iOS and Android devices will not be spared using this new method. Companies such as Adjust, AppsFlyer, MoEngage, Localytics and CleverTap are currently offering the new Uninstall trackers. These are usually included as part of a bundle of developer tools. Among the clients of these providers are the report for some time already well-known companies such as T-Mobile US, Spotify Technology and Yelp.
According to the Bloomberg post, developers have always been able to use so-called silent push notifications to ping installed applications on a regular basis without warning the user. However, if the app does not return anything to the developer, the app will be logged as uninstalled, and the uninstallation detection tools will add those changes to the file associated with the mobile device’s unique promotional ID.
Critics are already warning that this practice violates Apple and Google policies. In these there are clear rules against the use of automatic push notifications to create advertising circles. For this reason, observers already suspect that a consistent intervention of the smartphone manufacturers against this novel practice will not be long in coming.
“At best, uninstall tracking can be used to fix bugs or refine apps in other ways, without bothering users with surveys or other intrusive tools. But the ability to abuse the system beyond its original intent illustrates the bond that accompanies the modern Internet, “said Jeremy Gillula of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.