The Federal Trade Commission of the United States has issued a warning to a total of 12 Android developers who are using the controversial software in their apps.
The software being referred was created by a company named SilverPush; it is an advertising software that is able to detect what is known as audio beacons. These audio beacons are inaudible sounds emitted by devices such as TVs, and if gathered, would provide third-party advertising companies with more information on the TV habits of users.
The SilverPush software is able to do this by activating the microphone of the mobile devices where it is installed. The microphone then picks up the audio beacons, which in turn allows for the estimation of the audience size of certain TV programs for advertising purposes. The gathered information could also connect behavior, such as the websites that a user visits, to the types of TV programs that the user watches.
The FTC did not reveal the names of the app developers, but according to a report by The Verge, they were sent warning letters after the inclusion of the SilverPush code on their Google Play Store apps were determined.
The India-based creators of the SilverPush code claims that it is not yet being used within the United States. Nevertheless, the FTC pushed out the warnings saying that the apps with the SilverPush software are requesting for permission to access the microphones of devices despite no clear need to do so. In addition, users are not being properly notified of the inclusion of the SilverPush code and its purpose.
The FTC added that the Android developers could be found violating the law if users are not made aware of the information that the offending apps are able to collect from them.
Privacy advocates have been pushing for the FTC to ensure the transparency of cross device trackers such as SilverPush to users, and that the information that such software collects are used for ethical purposes.
It is not determined whether there are also some iOS apps which include the SilverPush code, as the FTC only called out apps on the Google Play Store.