A Large-scale Investigation into Geodifferences in Mobile Apps

Mobile apps are the way users worldwide access the Internet from their mobile devices. Any interference in the mobile app ecosystem can directly impact a users’ access to content and services from their mobile phones and their online security.

This is the first large-scale study to explore a user’s view of differences in a mobile app ecosystem like Google Play from different geographical vantage points.

What is geodiff.app?

The study investigates geodifferences in the availability of popular mobile apps, i.e., those with over 1 million installs globally on Google Play, and their security and privacy offerings as seen by users in 26 countries. Such geodifferences may result in different app equity i.e., different availability, security, and privacy of apps, based on a user’s geolocation. Given the increasing trends towards censorship and geoblocking, we believe that it is important to characterize such mobile app ecosystems to foster transparency and trust.

This work was conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan. For more information, see our paper (to appear in USENIX 2022).

A Large-scale Investigation into Geodifferences in Mobile Apps
USENIX Security SymposiumAugust 2022
Renuka Kumar, Apurva Virkud, Ram Sundara Raman, Atul Prakash, and Roya Ensafi

BibTex

@inproceedings{kumar2022geodifferences,
title={A Large-scale Investigation into Geodifferences in Mobile Apps},
author={Renuka Kumar and Apurva Virkud and Ram Sundara Raman and Atul Prakash and Roya Ensafi},
booktitle={USENIX Security Symposium},
year={2022}
}


Downloads

Using vantage points in 26 countries, we collected Google Play metadata, APKs, and privacy policies for our set of 5684 apps. The metadata contains information scraped from the Google Play homepage of each app. In addition to the APK files, we also retain the error messages when an app fails to download. The privacy policy webpages are downloaded from a privacy policy link found in the metadata. Our code and data are made available to enable further investigation of the mobile app ecosystem.

Measurement Code

Our code used to download Google Play metadata, APKs, and privacy policies is provided with documentation.

GitHub

Data

The metadata and APK error datasets can be downloaded directly. Please reach out to us for access to the privacy policy and APK datasets (over 3TB).

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Contact

Questions? Contact us at geodiff.app@umich.edu for more information!


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