Google Play is the primary application store for Android applications. Most Android devices ship with Google Play installed by default and most Android users use it to browse, find and install applications and application updates.
While there are other stores available, F-Droid for instance, Google Play is the dominating store when it comes to user numbers and activity.
Google Play reveals little about listed applications. You can click on "view details" on the desktop or tap on "permission details" on Android to display the list of permissions. What Google Play does not reveal, however, is whether an application uses trackers or analytics components.
Enter Exodify; the free browser extension for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox is powered by Exodus Privacy, a French non-profit organization that "discloses trackers in Android environment applications".
Note: The extension should work in browsers that share the code with Chrome or Firefox. While I did not try running the extension in Opera or Vivaldi, it should run just fine in those browsers.
The development team of the non-profit released the alpha Android application Exodus Privacy earlier this year and maintains a website that offers search capabilities among other things.
The browser extension requests permissions to access Google's Play Store URL and the own URL only which is refreshing. It displays the number of identified trackers in applications that you open on Google Play.
A click on the "powered by" link opens a history page of the app on the Exodus Privacy website listing identified trackers and requested permissions for each version of the app that was analyzed in the past.
Another click on a specific version of the app opens the apps profile page on the Exodus website. It lists all trackers found in the applications' code as well as all requested permissions on that page.
Permissions have a risk rating associated with them and you may hover over the rating to better understand what specific permissions grant.
All trackers are linked as well. If you click on a tracker, say Google Ads, Facebook Login or Adjust, you get a list of all apps that use that tracker.
Back to Google Play; Exodify displays the number of trackers for individual applications you open on the site but also for application suggestions that Google displays on the same page.
The database offers tracker related information for many popular apps, but you may see "unknown" listed for others.
When you open an application that has not been scanned by the service at this point, you get an option to have it analyzed by Exodus Privacy. Just click on the "Would you like to let ExodusPrivacy analyze it" link to open the Exodus website. You may run a scan right then and there to find out about integrated trackers and permissions.
Scanning did not take longer than a minute during tests and I ran into a single "can't decode APK" error during that time. You can open the report right away to access the scan results.
Any user of the extension or the application benefits from the new database entry once a scan completes.
Tip: You can look up applications using the built-in search without installing one of the extensions or the application. Just head over to the main reports page and type the name of the application or its handle.
Exodify is a useful browser extension for Android device users who browse Google's Play store regularly. Others may prefer to look up information about applications they are interested in using the search on the Exodus website as it reveals the same information.
Now You: Do you analyze apps before you install them?
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.