NEW DELHI: A new report has surfaced online revealing that popular Android apps are spying on the smartphone activity of users and are also sharing the data with advertisers. As per a research from the International Computer Science Institute, which was first reported by CNET, there are around 17,000 Android apps which are said to be tracking and sharing user data with advertisers.

Some of the popular apps on list include Flipboard, Angry Birds Classic, Audiobooks app, Beauty filter app B612, Clean Master and others. The research findings are a cause of concern as the apps can track users via ‘persistent identifiers, which cannot be turned off by users. The activities tracked by the apps include which apps are used by the smartphone users and how often they use it. This data is then shared with the advertisers which is then used for targeted advertising.

Each smartphone is given a unique advertising ID which is read by any app installed on the smartphone. The users can reset their advertising ID by clearing the cookies. Doing this will delete all the previous data linked to the smartphone. But the reports also suggests that advertising ID is linked to more permanent items in a smartphone. “The apps can track you by linking your Advertising ID — a unique but resettable number used to tailor advertising — with other identifiers on your phone that are difficult or impossible to change. Those IDs are the device’s unique signatures: the MAC address, IMEI and Android ID,” adds the report.

Whenever an app sends the unique advertising OS and hardware ID of a smartphone to advertisers, then it doesn’t matter whether you have deleted the cookies or not. The advertisers can still recognise the users after the resetting of the advertising ID with the help of the hardware ID.

Tech giant Google has asked the developers to stay away from using hardware identifiers as they collect user information. Along with this, the company has also barred the developers from combining the hardware ID and advertising ID as the combination of both can be used for targeting ads.