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Yandex Zen Might be Selling Your Personal Data

Privacy is a major concern these days and a lot people are starting to take it very seriously, if you are on of those we have some very alarming news for you. Yandex is the largest search engine in Russia with about 65 percent market share, they have an app called Yandex browser in the Play Store and App Store. Yandex Browser called Yandex Zen, the purpose of which is to provide interesting articles, news, and video in a personalized feed on the Yandex Browser start screen.

Yandex Zen

To provide you with personalized content Yandex Zen will need access to some of your personal data, like your search history, your location etc. The scary part starts with the permissions which Yandex Browser app needs. Some of the permissions are total give aways right away; for example “download files without notification”, why on earth would an app want to download files on my smartphone without my permission. The only case you would want to do that is when you are trying to do something fishy. Below is the list of all permissions needed by Yandex Browser :-

Device & app history
  • read your Web bookmarks and history
  • find accounts on the device
  • add or remove accounts
  • find accounts on the device
  • approximate location (network-based)
  • precise location (GPS and network-based)
  • read phone status and identity
  • read the contents of your USB storage
  • modify or delete the contents of your USB storage
  • read the contents of your USB storage
  • modify or delete the contents of your USB storage
  • take pictures and videos
  • record audio
Wi-Fi connection information
  • view Wi-Fi connections
Device ID & call information
  • read phone status and identity
  • download files without notification
  • receive data from Internet
  • view network connections
  • create accounts and set passwords
  • connect and disconnect from Wi-Fi
  • full network access
  • change your audio settings
  • run at startup
  • set wallpaper
  • use accounts on the device
  • control vibration
  • prevent device from sleeping
  • modify system settings
  • install shortcuts
  • uninstall shortcuts

Coming to the Terms of use, we have something fishy here as well. Yandex will collect following information from your device:-

  • type of operating system
  • statistics on the use of certain functions of the Service
  • Internet Protocol (IP) address
  • geolocation data
  • data on the WI-FI
  • cookie information

Collecting this information is fine as long as Yandex keeps it to themselves, however that’s not the case. Yandex shares this information with it’s Affiliates. In addition to Affiliates, third party advertisement networks may also receive your Data. We have highlighted the relevant part for you peeps from the Terms of Service page of Yandex Zen.

4.2. The Data may be collected, stored and processed by Yandex in compliance with the principles of Swiss data protection laws, i.e., The Data will only be processed lawfully, proportionately, in good faith and for the purposes mentioned here in these Terms. The Data may also be transferred to, stored and processed by Yandex’s Affiliates in any manner, to the extent that such communication and use are permitted under their locally applicable laws, and the User hereby agrees to the transfer of the Data to Yandex’s Affiliates. Please note that the jurisdictions in which Yandex’s Affiliates are located might not always provide the same level of data protection as Switzerland. In the event of any such disparities, Yandex will enter into data transfer agreements with the data-receiving Yandex’s Affiliates abroad in order to ensure that Yandex’s Affiliates adhere to Swiss data protection standards.

4.4. Yandex may also display third-party advertisements in the Service (such as Facebook’s Audience Network advertisements , but without limitation to the foregoing). In such cases, third-party advertising providers and advertisers may receive the Data and use it in accordance with the privacy policies of third-party advertising providers. 

Facebook already knows a lot about me, maybe even more than my Facebook friends do, but Facebook is just an example of third-party advertiser. You may have your data being shared with other companies as well, and all of them might not be trust worthy.

Do you still want to use the Yandex Zen service? Let us know via comments below.