These popular VPN, ad blocker apps could be harvesting your data
A Buzzfeed News report reveals at least 20 VPN and ad blocker apps owned by Sensor Tower are secretly collecting data from millions of users.
Sensor Tower, the analytics firm mainly known for its periodic updates on app download bases, has been harvesting users' data through its VPN and ad blocker applications on Android as well as iOS, reports Buzzfeed News.
Sensor Tower owns at least 20 such applications including Free and Unlimited VPN, Luna VPN, Mobile Data, and Adblock Focus. These apps don't categorically mention their connection with Sensor Tower. The apps, with more than 35 million downloads, also don't reveal they are being for harvesting data for Sensor Tower.
Apple took down Adblock Focus shortly after it was contacted by Buzzfeed News. Google did the same for the Mobile Data app. Both Apple and Google are said to be now investigating the report.
Sensor Tower said that the firm didn't collect sensitive data or personally identifiable information. Randy Nelson, Sensor Tower's head of mobile insights, added that the "the vast majority of these apps listed are now defunct (inactive) and a few are in the process of sunsetting."
On not disclosing the connection between these apps and Sensor Tower, Nelson explained, "When you consider the relationship between these types of apps and an analytics company, it makes a lot of sense — especially considering our history as a startup."
According to the report, Sensor Tower's apps ask users' to install a root certificate which allows the company to access the key data from a phone. It is worth noting that Google and Apple have stricter policies for such root certificate installs. In the case of Sensor Tower's, the certification was downloaded via an external website.