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SoniControl: App should protect against acoustic cookies


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The free Android app SoniControl of the Fachhochschule St. Pölten should protect against the confidential data exchange via acoustic cookies on the smartphone.

Researchers from Austria have developed a way to protect against acoustic cookies, which are often used on smartphones to display personalized advertisements. Acoustic cookies use ultrasound tones that are imperceptible to human hearing, for example to find out which television content is being consumed. So far, there has been no effective protection against this form of ad tracking, which unnoticed sends and receives data via the smartphone. On the other hand, developers can easily integrate acoustic cookies into their apps via numerous SDKs such as XT Audio Beacons, Lisnr or Google Nearby API.

Firewall against ultrasound

Researchers Matthias Zeppelzauer, Peter Kopciak, Kevin Pirner, Alexis Ringot and Florian Taurer from the University of Applied Sciences in St. Pölten, Austria, have now developed a kind of firewall against acoustic cookies called SoniControl, which aims to combat data transmission via ultrasound. With the app you want to give the users control over this form of tracking.

The open source Android App SoniControl should interfere with data transfer via ultrasound. To do this, the app plays its own inaudible sound through the speaker of the smartphone. The acoustic cookies can therefore no longer record sounds. As a precaution, access to the microphone can also be prohibited in the app. However, this also eliminates the possibility for voice-controlled interaction with other users. The App SoniControl is now available for free download from the Play Store. In the first updates have already been repaired problems with high battery consumption and overheating of the battery.
Hundreds of apps with acoustic cookies in the store

The acoustic cookies are primarily used to track users across multiple devices, but could also be used for interception or data theft. According to a research paper from the TU Braunschweig from last year, the PlayStore already listed 234 Android apps that use acoustic cookies. Google responded by removing non-compliant apps and forcing developers to disclose use of the microphone to users. (Michael Mercenary) / (bme)
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