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Pet apps and gadgets may not be that safe for personal information retention. Recent research from the University of Newcastle and Royal Holloway University of London has exposed multiple security issues with 40 popular Android pet tech apps. These apps put owners at risk by leaking their login or location details without asking for explicit consent first. To start tackling the issue, the researchers advise people who use such technology to create strong passwords as well as checking app permissions before downloading it.

Pet tech, the technology in the pet care industry to improve the health, wellbeing, and overall quality of life of pets, is growing rapidly and includes a wide range of products, such as GPS trackers, automatic feeders and pet cameras. For example, wearable devices monitor a pet’s activity levels, heart rate, and sleep patterns, as well as smart feeding systems that dispense food on a set schedule or in response to the animal’s behaviour.

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Password Vulnerability

The research team identified three applications that had the user’s login details visible in plain text within non-secure HTTP traffic. This means that anyone is able to observe the internet traffic of someone using one of these apps and will be able to find out their login information. In addition to login information, two of the apps also showed user details, such as their location, that may enable someone to gain access to their devices and risk a cyber-attack.


All but four of the applications were found to feature some form of tracking software. A tracker gathers information on the person using the application, on how they use it, or on the smartphone being used. The scientists also warn that the apps perform very poorly in terms of notifying the user of their privacy policy. Their analysis shows that 21 of the apps are tracking the user in some way before the user even has a chance to consent to this, violating current data protection regulations.

Survey Results

The researchers also conducted a survey of almost 600 participants from the UK, USA and Germany. The survey asked questions about the technologies used, incidents that have occurred or participants believe may occur, and the methods used by participants to protect their online security and privacy and whether they apply these to their pet tech.

Risks and Mitigation

Given the potential risks posed by pet tech apps and devices, it is important for pet owners to be aware of them. Scott Harper recommends users take time to ensure they are using a unique password and checking settings before downloading an app. He also encourages those developing such technologies to increase security measures in order to reduce the risk of sharing users’ personal information or location.

Maryam Mehrnezhad added: “We are using modern technologies to improve several aspects of our lives. However, some of these (often) cheap technologies come at the price of our privacy, security, and safety. Animal technologies can create complex risks and harms that are not easy to recognise and address. In this interdisciplinary project, we are working on solutions to mitigate such risks an allow animal owners to use such technologies without risk or fear.”