Eggheads confirm: Rampant Android bloatware a privacy and security hellscape

The apps bundled with many Android phones are presenting threats to security and privacy greater than most users think. This according to a paper (PDF) from university researchers in the US and Spain who studied the pre-installed software that 214 different vendors included in their Android devices. Across all those different vendors, carriers, and locales, one theme was found: Android devices are lousy with bloatware that not only takes up storage, but also harvests personal information and in some cases even introduces malware. "We have identified instances of user tracking activities by preinstalled Android software – and embedded third-party libraries – which range from collecting the usual set of PII and geolocation data to more invasive practices that include personal email and phone call metadata, contacts, and a variety of behavioral and usage statistics in some cases," the team wrote. While the bundled apps can be installed by the vendors, bloatware can also be introduced by the carriers who add their own software to devices as well as third parties that may slip in additional advertising or tracking tools into otherwise harmless and useful software.