In April, Apple and Google announced a partnership to launch a contact tracking system. Over the past two months, the number of contact tracking applications has surged with the deep involvement of developers and the addition of local governments and medical professionals. However, due to the lack of appropriate national standards, many applications in the user privacy practices are not good, but also because of the built-in ads and off the shelf. How to regulate these apps is an issue that Apple and the government need to address in app stores such as Google.
When users turn on contact tracking app Contact Tracing on their phone, they expect to see a warning about where they have been exposed to the new coronavirus. Users don’t expect to see the app push ads and crosswords to recruit roofers based on their online campaigns.
The app allows users to report virus detection results and track their contact with others. It is also a rare example of developers making ad revenue from outbreak tracking apps.
Alexander Desuasido said he developed the app in his spare time, and neither previous version had been approved by the App Store. The 44-year-old programmer, who lives in Forster, California, says he doesn’t hide the ads because they’re the only way they can “provide free services to people.”
Apple says its contact tracking app prohibits advertising or in-app purchases, and the company is working with developers to address the issue. Google, which launched the app from the App Store last month, said the ads in Contact Tracing did not comply with its policy.
The situation with the applications developed by De Suasido highlights the challenge of not being able to track how the app works or what information to share, even as it becomes increasingly important as U.S. states restart the economy.
According to a new study by the International Digital Accountability Commission (IDAC), the watchdog, of more than 100 apps in Google’s App Store, some new contact-tracking apps are opaque in how they use user data, making it possible to use users’ personal healthcare data for advertising. There are also apps that share sensitive user information, such as location data, with third-party services.
The researchers found that contact tracking apps developed by Indian developer Medinin had been transmitting users’ geographic locations and phone numbers without reasonable security measures, potentially exposing the information to hackers. Medinin did not respond to a request for comment.
“We’ve seen bad privacy practices,” said Quentin Palfrey, idaC president. “In fact, we haven’t seen these bad privacy practices translate into real, sustained harm, but that doesn’t mean the harm didn’t happen or might not happen in the future.” “
He says the only way contact tracking apps can slow the spread of new coronaviruses is to have enough users trust the app and download it. “Failure to comply with best practices undermines public trust and can hamper the tracking of outbreaks,” he said. “
A Google spokesman said: “If the app does not comply with our policy, we will work with the developer to identify and resolve any issues.” The spokesman declined to comment on the situation.
Over the past two months, the number of contact tracking applications has surged with the deep involvement of developers and the addition of local governments and medical professionals. U.S. lawmakers are also trying to control the market: A recent federal bill aimed at limiting public health use and adding security measures, such as requiring technology companies to delete data after an outbreak.
“It’s a different category of applications, and there should be different standards,” said Mike Sax, founder and president of the App Association. “”This involves very sensitive data. “
At the same time, Google and Apple have become de facto regulators for contact tracking apps, deciding which of the many developers can offer services through their app stores. However, in tracking contacts, the primary requirement for reviewing and getting on the shelf is to demonstrate the developer’s relationship with a government entity or healthcare organization.
But there are still persistent mistakes.
According to IDAC, some contact tracking apps in Google’s App Store do not list privacy policies, which is also a violation of Google’s rules. The researchers also found that some apps contain computer code that can interact with social media, allowing them to send targeted ads or process online purchases.
CG Covid-19 ePass, a contact tracking app developed in India, requires users to take selfies with cameras in order to monitor their journeys as required. But it’s unclear what the app developer plans to do with the photos, according to IDAC researchers. THE CG COVID-19 EPASS DEVELOPER DID NOT RESPOND TO A REQUEST FOR COMMENT.
The contact tracking app published by De Suasido has built-in ads. He says his app is already being used in several countries and is downloaded by thousands of people every day. He says he has no experience in healthcare, but has developed other applications, including one that manages cryptocurrencies.
When the app Contact Tracing was first approved and launched through Apple and Google’s App Store, DeSu asSIdo began earning revenue through AdMob, Google’s mobile advertising platform.
Mr. de Suasido has also had some confusing problems lately.
An email sent to him by Google shows that last month Google dropped his app from the store on the grounds that it appeared to “profit from a tragedy”.
But an email from Google showed that the search giant later told him that if Mr. de Suacido took out documents from state and other administrations, Google could get his app back up and running.
De Suasido presented letters to Apple and Google from the deputy mayor of Daley, California, and a representative from ilocos Norte, Philippines, showing that he was working with government agencies.
Juslyn Manalo, deputy mayor of Daley, said she had given a guarantee to De Suasido and local officials were still deciding how to continue using the contact tracking app. “Why can’t we work with locals?” She said, “When I first heard about it, he was the only one who did it.” Representatives for the Northern Ibrox province of the Philippines did not respond to requests for comment.
Meanwhile, Mr. De Suasido says his app in the Apple Store continues to use Google’s ad network, meaning Google may have been profiting from the apps that have already been taken off the shelves and split with De Suasido.
Mr. de Suasido stressed that he had been reinvesting in the revenue he would receive to improve and promote the app and was only now beginning to break even.
That may change now.
On Thursday, Google said it would remove the app’s monetisation in the Apple Store.
Mr. de Suasido said he would have to comply with Apple’s recent request that he remove the ads. All of this, he says, will require him to remove some of the features in the current application.
“The rules in this area change over time,” he said. “The key is to persevere and keep following up. “