Who, do you think, is aware of almost everything you do?

Well, it's probably right there in your pocket, if you own a smartphone and carry it with you. In order to evaluate the actual privacy risks of smartphones and to raise public awareness of these risks, the CNIL (French data protection authority) and the Inria (French public science and technology institution dedicated to computational sciences) Privatics team started working together in 2012 as part of the Mobilitics project.

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Apple made a descent step towards making their iOS privacy-friendly by introducing new privacy-specific settings in iOS 6. However we believe that the set of data Apple considered as private in their iOS 6 privacy settings is still not exhaustive and it lacks some other kinds of private data. Moreover, we also believe that a user should be able to revoke access to internet for a particular app if he wants to do so. As a demonstration to Apple and others for its feasibility and usability, we came up with a software solution that enables user to have aforementioned control.

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We've developed a software solution for iOS 5.1 to capture access to private information by various Apps. When an App makes a call to the iOS API to access a broad list of a user's personal data, our software logs this event for later analysis. Note that some Apps do actually need to access personal data to provide the desired service. These Apps do not breach user privacy if they only process and use the personal data to provide the desired service and don’t transmit the data to remote third parties. In order to detect personal information leakage, we therefore also monitor the network traffic.

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Android Logger runs on Android 4.1 and captures events where phone accesses a particular kind of private data and sends it to the network. It basically makes use of TaintDroid to capture the privacy leaks and stores the info in a local database for later analysis. This stored database is periodically synchronized with our server. Our logger enables us to know what kinds of private data is accessed and sent to third-parties by various Apps and Android OS system services/Apps.

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