Is your in-app browser tracking you? Find out with this handy tool.
People have been talking about the nefarious things that in-app browsers can do to track their users’ activities and gather sensitive information, but there hasn’t been any clear way to determine if you’re being tracked. Luckily, developers at NewSky Security decided to develop an easy way to check if your phone’s in-app browser is tracking you, and they’ve made it available online as well as downloadable to use on your phone when you don’t have access to the Internet. Find out how you can download and use this tool yourself right here!
How the in-app browsers operate
The majority of websites have some kind of tracking installed, but what about those sites on apps? One way to find out is to browse from a private browser, and if the data collection continues, then it’s likely the browser is tracking. For example, Facebook and Google use user data to target advertisements. Other instances where there are privacy concerns are when companies collect information like browser history or logins that they don’t need or want.
A simple way to find out if any app is accessing information from a private browser is to use Ghostery, a free ad and tracker blocker that includes privacy tests. The extension lets you test how many third parties are operating on websites by showing all of them at once. When you try visiting a site from an incognito tab, if any third parties continue to operate, then it’s likely there’s something happening beyond what’s immediately visible on screen. How does it work? Ghostery blocks trackers for advertising purposes and keeps them from collecting your data without informing you that they’re still operating. If anything continues to operate after blocking them, there’s likely some tracking taking place behind the scenes of whatever website or app you’re using.
How to detect if an app is using an in-app browser
Checking for an app browser tracking is actually quite easy to do, and it just takes a few steps: 1) First, make sure the device doesn’t have any external browsing apps installed (like Facebook or YouTube). 2) Visit a site that uses an iframe to display content like so many news sites do. 3) Look at the top bar of the mobile browser – does it say In-App Browser? 4) If yes, then continue on to step 5. 5) Open Settings > Apps > find the app which has been running in In-App Browser mode.
If it says In-App Browser then you know that an app is using an In-App Browser to display content, which means it’s recording what page links you tap on, what videos you watch and more. Just be aware that most apps have a legitimate reason for doing so, like sharing content from a web page or displaying a video that was embedded on their site but not provided by them (say, for example if youtube makes changes to their API). However, some apps may use these trackers to share your data with third parties without disclosing that they’re doing so.
How to block them and prevent data collection
Nowadays, online marketers are looking for any new way to track people and harvest their data. One method of tracking people is through an app browser (AKA the default browser that comes on an app). Since they’re invisible and run when a person is browsing the internet through their favorite apps, it’s hard to know if they’re being tracked or not.
Luckily, one person came up with a nifty tool that can check to see if an app is installing an invisible browser and stealing data. It’s called SnoopSnitch and it’s available on Android devices through Google Play Store, though you’ll need to root your device (google it if you don’t know what that means) to use it properly. Once installed, all you have to do is run a test and see if any trackers pop up! If they do, then we recommend changing browsers or uninstalling apps that are using them.
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