It’s probably no surprise that the #1 most posted ‘topic’ on Instagram is the selfie. So with millions of people snapping and sharing billions of photos of themselves, it’s equally unsurprising that scores of photo-editing apps have popped up to help people improve their selfies.
Most of these apps are free, so if you’re wondering how they pay the bills when they’re creating and distributing their product at no cost, well… you’re not alone. The folks at CyberNews cybersecurity checked out dozens of selfie-improvement camera apps on Android, and found no less than 30 of them infect users’ phones with malware that collects and sends personal data back to the app company – including their location, usually without the users’ knowledge.
These aren’t obscure, little-known apps, either. In total, these apps have been downloaded onto some 1.4 billion smartphones worldwide. Take the #1 beauty camera app, BeautyPlus – Easy Photo Editor and Selfie Camera, with 300 million installs, which was identified as being either malware or spyware. Its developer, Meitu, is suspected of collecting user data in its Chinese servers, and then selling it. This developer has previously come under fire for its apps sending the user’s unique phone identifier (IMEI) to multiple servers in China.
In fact, of the 30 apps identified, 16 were developed in Hong Kong or China (Perhaps it comes as little surprise, then, that governments around the world are wary of the spread of 5G networks and other such technology by China.) The report also noted the names of several Chinese developers involved in the spread of a particularly nasty Trojan on Android, and most of the offending apps seem to have been developed by one of the same three companies. One of the apps violates several policies of Google’s Play Store and secretly collects data from users – and can also activate the phone’s camera and microphone without the user’s knowledge.
Why do developers do this? It’s all about money. According to the CyberNews report, “Application developers can make a lot of money by selling your data to advertisers. Location-sharing agreements between app developers and app brokers – where apps can send your GPS coordinates up to 14,000 times per day – can bring in a lot of revenue.” In fact, the report continues, just the location data of a million users can attract an income of up to US$4,000 a month.
Suffice it to say that your vanity comes with a pretty big price tag!
Here are the apps that are not just beautifying your selfies: They’re potentially spying on you, stealing your data, and infecting your phone with malicious malware.
- BeautyPlus – Easy Photo Editor and Selfie Camera
- Beauty Camera – Selfie Camera
- Selfie Camera – Beauty Camera and Photo Editor
- Beauty Camera Plus – Sweet Camera ♥ Makeup Photo
- Beauty Camera – Selfie Camera and Photo Editor
- YouCam Perfect – Best Selfie Camera and Photo Editor
- Sweet Snap – Beauty Selfie Camera and Face Filter
- Sweet Selfie Snap – Sweet Camera, Beauty Cam Snap
- Beauty Camera – Selfie Camera with Photo Editor
- Beauty Camera – Best Selfie Camera and Photo Editor
- B612 – Beauty and Filter Camera
- Face Makeup Camera and Beauty Photo Makeup Editor
- Sweet Selfie – Selfie Camera and Makeup Photo Editor
- Selfie Camera – Beauty Camera and Makeup Camera
- YouCam Perfect – Best Photo Editor and Selfie Camera
- Beauty Camera Makeup Face Selfie, Photo Editor
- Selfie Camera – Beauty Camera
- Z Beauty Camera
- HD Camera Selfie Beauty Camera
- Candy Camera – Selfie, Beauty Camera, Photo Editor
- Makeup Camera – Selfie Beauty Filter Photo Editor
- Beauty Selfie Plus – Sweet Camera Wonder HD Camera
- Selfie Camera – Beauty Camera and AR Stickers
- Pretty Makeup, Beauty Photo Editor and Selfie Camera
- Beauty Camera
- Bestie – Camera360 Beauty Cam
- Photo Editor – Beauty Camera
- Beauty Makeup, Selfie Camera Effects, Photo Editor
- Selfie cam – Bestie Makeup Beauty Camera and Filters
To read the entire eye-popping report, which comes with plenty of sobering information, along with some thoughts on how to avoid these apps, head over to the story on CyberNews. And you may want to start deleting some apps after that.