Google has removed over 800 apps from Play Store after a group of academicians found them suspect for being ranked as creepware. As per the ZDNet report, creepware apps are those which can’t be categorised as spyware or stalkerware but still capable of being used for spying into other’s phone.
These group of academicians have come out with a detailed report called, “The Many Kinds of Creepware Used for Interpersonal Attacks.” The group comprises of researchers from New York University, Cornell Tech, and NortonLifeLock (formerly Symantec). They have designed a CreepRank algorithim which helps identify apps that have traits of a creepware, and given them rank according to their level of mischief. So, if the app was able to extract messages from a device, or even track location, it was ranked as creepware.
The algorithim was run on a sample of data from apps which have installed on over 50 million Android smartphones. This data set was made available by folks at NortonLifeLock, and according to the report, it came from devices belonging to real people, who’ve installed the Norton Mobile Security mobile antivirus.
The algorithm was used on app data sets between 2017 and 2019, from which, they were able to notify that Google about the 1,095 apps had creepware abilities. Based on this assessment, the algorithm confirmed that over 813 apps were suspect for being creepware, and following this confirmation, Google decided to remove them from the Play Store for violating its terms and conditions.
Google’s privacy norms have been questioned quite a few times before, but if creepware is considered as a future threat to mobile users, it makes sense to remove them right away. Having said that, the research doesn’t share the names of the app which have been removed from the Play Store.