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Privacy on Mobile: Things your Apps Know About You?

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Many people use their smartphones daily and put a lot of trust in their devices to keep their personal information and data secure. What many people don’t know is that some of the apps that we can download may put some of our data at risk without our knowledge. With the creation of exciting technological developments, there are going to be many more apps that you might be interested in trying out, so it’s a good idea to have an understanding of what exactly your apps know about you.

A Closer Look

To examine what data some of the most popular apps on both the Android and Apple markets are asking for, a study was done with the top free apps of both marketplaces. Overall, most of the apps requested personal information for good reason and with consent. An example of this would be an app for requesting a taxi that would need to access your location to know where to send a car. When comparing Apple with Android, it was clear that the free apps on the Android marketplace were requesting far more risky permissions. This means that a lot of the apps on the Android marketplace were accessing your personal information and therefore putting it at risk for no seemingly good reason.

Some of the risky permissions included location, camera access, audio recordings, and on android, the ability to read both the phone call log and SMS messages. When downloading an app, you should check what information it is requesting to access and decide whether or not it is necessary and whether you are comfortable sharing that information.

Personal Information

When you download and use an app, you are often asked to sign in with either a username or email address. The most common piece of personal information that these apps have access to is email addresses. 48 percent of the top 100 free apps from the Apple marketplace had access to email addresses, whereas 44 percent of the Android apps requested an email address. The next most common piece of personal information that these apps had access to included usernames, with 33 percent of Apple apps requesting this information and 30 percent of Android apps wanting a username.

There are other kinds of personal information that apps can request to have access to, which include things like phone numbers and home addresses. It is important to understand which apps you are giving this personal data to, as the more your information is out there and available, the higher chance of a breach of your details.

Another way in which an app can gain access to your personal information is by having a feature that allows you to sign in with your social media account. This tends to make it much easier to sign into different apps with a single login; however, you should be very careful. By allowing access to your social media account, you give the app the ability to track your data within the app.

How Risky is Giving Permissions?

When it comes to deciding what information to allow apps permission to access, you should think logically about why the app is requesting that specific data or feature. In the case of Instagram, the app will request access to your camera and camera roll to take photos, then post them on the app. This makes sense and is still essentially risky permission to give, but you are doing it for a reason.

If you find that an app is requesting access to a feature or some personal data that doesn’t seem relevant to the function of the app, then alarm bells should start ringing, and you should think long and hard about whether you want to go through with allowing access.

A good way to know if you should trust an app with your personal information is if the app has a privacy policy. A privacy policy outlines all of the information that will be accessed and stored on the app so you can clearly see what personal data is being used and shared. If an app doesn’t have a privacy policy, then you will have no idea what kind of personal information it is accessing and who it is being shared with. This is a big problem as it essentially means that anyone could be using your information for all kinds of things, and you are putting yourself at high risk of a privacy breach. It is always better to be safe than sorry and to look carefully at what an app is trying to access and decide whether or not you think it is safe to divulge personal information with them or not.

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