[REVIEW] : How do these popular apps pass your data to Russian Google, Yandex (and does it really matter)?

Offered free of charge – in exchange for anonymized personal data allowing advertising targeting – the “famous” SDK, or development kit, provided by Yandex is rather practical for developers: mapping, notifications and even payment system…

Stored in Finland and Russia, these statistical data have so far raised no more questions than that. But since the start of the war in Ukraine, all eyes have been on the Kremlin, to which Yandex is reputed to be very close. Should you uninstall your applications as a precaution? Here are some answers.

Codename: AppMetrica

An expert from auditing agency Me2B Alliance investigated the Android and iOS application development kit named AppMetrica. Concretely, this SDK offers essential functions for the proper functioning of applications, a kind of backbone for these services. However, in the Financial Times article, published on March 29, Yandex confirmed that AppMetrica retrieves data concerning the user’s “device, network and IP address”… We bet that the information is a bit blurry.

The Russian Google specifies that this “non-personalized and very limited” data does not make it possible to identify or track a user: “Although theoretically possible, in practice it is extremely difficult to identify users solely on the basis of the information collected. “.

Although theoretically possible, in practice it is extremely hard to identify users based solely on such information collected. Yandex definitely cannot do this.

You will inevitably find in the long list of applications concerned, something that you downloaded one evening of boredom, for example. Are targeted, a string of games – Stack Ball 3D, Bubble Shooter, Hoop Star and the clairvoyant Akinator – such as music software – Ultimate Guitar: Chords & Tabs, Drum Pad Machine – Beat Maker. Our French colleagues from Numerama have compiled a list of the most popular applications in France developed via AppMetrica.

If more than 52,000 applications are concerned on a global scale, it is especially people who occupy particularly sensitive functions who are likely to be monitored by the Russian state apparatus. Ironically, some apps intended to simplify communications for Ukrainians in times of war (Call Ukraine) are also affected.

Yandex, close to the Kremlin, minimizes the facts

Certainly, it is not Yandex, giant of Russian tech, which has just invented data siphoning, and the company plays down the impact of this collection. After all, this SDK tool “works the same as other international software” such as Google Firebase, found in no less than 2 million Android apps. It is equally true that the user accepts the terms of use by downloading the application.

Blablacar, RTL, Akinator: these 100 applications that send your personal data to Russia

Today, it is now accepted among smartphone users and other Internet users that to use a service, you must most often agree to entrust personal data.

According to a survey by the Financial Times, these are close to 50,000 apps which, through AppMetrica, would send their users’ personal data to Russia. AppMetrica is a development kit marketed by Yandex, a search engine competitor to Google in Russia, notoriously close to the Kremlin. The company also acknowledges that its SDK collects several data, such as the type of device, the network or the IP address.

HERE IS THE LIST OF THE 100 APPLICATIONS THAT SEND YOUR PERSONAL DATA TO RUSSIA

A practice that raises many questions, precisely because of these supposedly tenuous ties between Yandex and the Russian government. Last month, Lev Gershenzon, a former executive of the company, notably published a long text on Facebook alerting public opinion to the dark actions of the latter. In particular, he accuses the search engine of delete results related to the war against Ukraine.

Thanks to our colleagues from Numerama, we now have a list of French applications that also use AppMetrica. If the vast majority of them are games, there are also other big names in the start-up nation. Thereby, Blablacar made an appearance on the list, although the firm defended itself by saying that it only uses AppMetrica in Russia. Another surprise, the application RTL is also present, as well as the translation service Reverso.

But, as explained above, it’s the games that dominate the list. In total, they constitute more than 40% French applications using AppMetrica. Many of them are developed by Easy Brain, a company that boasts of having reached the has, or even Voodo and Saygame. Most often, these are extremely popular games such as sudoku or puzzles. Here is the complete list of affected applications.

  • Adidas
  • Akinator (App Store)
  • Akinator (Google Play)
  • Art Of War 3: RTS Strategy Game
  • Ball Blast
  • Beat Maker Go – Make Music
  • BlaBlaCar: Carpooling and Bus
  • Blend It 3D
  • Block Craft 3D: Building Games
  • Blockudoku: Block Puzzle Game
  • Brain Wash — Puzzle Mind Game
  • bubble shooter
  • Cannon Shot!
  • Color by Numbers for Adults
  • Color Road!
  • Crazy Kick!
  • Cube Surfer!
  • Cut the Rope
  • Differences – Find & Spot them
  • Dig This!
  • DManager Browser & Documents
  • Draw Climber
  • Draw Joust!
  • Drum Pad Machine — Beat Maker
  • Drum Pads 24 Beat Maker Music
  • Easy Game – Brain Test
  • Facelab – Face Editor, Beauty
  • flip dunk
  • From Zero to Hero: Cityman
  • Groovepad – Music & Beat Maker
  • Guitar – Chords, Tabs & Games
  • Helix Jump
  • Hello Piano: Learn Pro Lessons
  • Hoop Stars
  • Hornet – Social Network
  • Idle Building 3D
  • iScanner – PDF Scanner App
  • Jigsaw Puzzles – Puzzle Games
  • Jigsaw Puzzles for Adults HD
  • Johnny Trigger
  • Johnny Trigger: Sniper
  • Jurassic Monster World 3D FPS
  • Kiss Kiss: Spin the Bottle
  • Learn Guitar | Guitar coach
  • Mahjong Treasure Quest
  • MuseScore: sheet music
  • My Candy Love – Episode
  • My Success Story business game
  • Numberzilla: Number Match Game
  • Paint by Number Coloring Games
  • Photo Collage — Collageable
  • Piano — Lessons & Tiles Games
  • Pixel Art: Paint by Number
  • PREQUEL: Aesthetic Pic Editor
  • PURE Hookup: Anonymous Dating
  • Pure Sudoku: The Logic Game
  • Raft Survival – Ocean Nomad
  • Reverso translate and learn
  • Sand Balls – Digger Puzzle
  • Scribble Rider
  • Seekers Notes: Hidden Objects
  • Smart Cleaner – Clean Storage
  • Solitaire — Classic Card Games
  • Spiral Roll
  • Stack Ball 3D
  • Stack Colors!
  • Sudoku — Brain Puzzle Games
  • The Cook – 3D Cooking Game
  • Tractor Game for Build a House
  • Translate.me Voice Translator
  • Turbo Stars – Epic Racing
  • Ultimate Guitar: Chords & Tabs
  • Ultimate Guitar: Chords & Tabs
  • UNICORN: Color by Number Games
  • Unlimited Music Player Now

Blablacar, reverso, Adidas…: these popular applications that send your data to Russia

It was researchers who revealed the information which was then relayed by the British daily Financial Times on March 29. Nearly 50,000 applications, which can be found on Google Play or the App Store, including very well known and popular in France, would use Russian software, AppMetrica, which is made available free of charge in exchange for personal information about users. This SDK (software development kit) is provided by Yandex, a Russian search engine.

Millions of affected users

Among the applications, present on a list that the Numerama site was able to examine and which use this software, we find courier and delivery services, mainly used in Russia. But, other apps are very well known in France, such as the carpooling platform Blablacar as well as many popular games like Helix Jump, Akinator, Solitaire and many others. The Reverso translation service but also the RTL radio application use AppMetrica.

Thus, several million users would be affected by this data collection. Thanks to data provided by Appfigures, an application analysis service, the Financial Times was able to relay the information.

Games, useful apps

Games represent more than 40% of the applications using this software, this is the case of the apps developed by Easy Brain, one of the leaders in the sector (1 billion downloads claimed), the French publisher Voodoo or even Saygame. Games such as sudoku, puzzles or cards are among the most downloaded. Finally, many applications for scanning, converting a document, making a simple photo montage are also in the list.