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Theme fund: NGI0 Discovery
Start: 2021-06
End: 2022-09


Providing an alternative view on the Android App ecosystem

Mobile phones play a major role in our society, yet they still suffer from severe limitations in how they handle apps. As a result, most people are unaware of the dangers of privacy leaks and are typically offered very constrained search capabilities within one single source of information, the app store. MoboSearch is a new search engine and information portal for apps, empowering users beyond the existing app stores. The system exposes privacy and security information, like app permissions, and gives users new easy and flexible search capabilities that allow to make an informed choice and to increase people's awareness. Openness and interoperability ensure that the system can offer and receive data, so to cooperatively enable a better and healthier app ecosystem.

Why does this actually matter to end users?

Everyone knows there is no such thing as a free lunch. But when you are browsing through an app store, it sure looks like there is a wealth of free apps. Software companies have learned that users can put up with in-app advertising and data tracking as long as the app works relatively well (and the ads don't last too long). But what if a user doesn't want to be followed and profiled? Or what if the user is underage?

In a user-centric internet, you should be able to choose. This project helps to inform people about what the apps they search for, actually do on their phone. Instead of selecting from only one app store, Mobosearch allows you to search for what you need for phone to do across and beyond the most widely used app stores and immediately see how the proposed apps work, what data they store and can access, so they can make a well-informed decision.

Run by University of Padua

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This project was funded through the NGI0 Discovery Fund, a fund established by NLnet with financial support from the European Commission's Next Generation Internet programme, under the aegis of DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology under grant agreement No 825322.