Apps - how can we live without them? These programs have really changed our lives in the past few years. Instead of opening a new browser tab every time consumers want to check an email, shop online, connect with family and friends on social media or pay bills, apps are making everything easier and accessible with just one click.
The Google App store has around 2.8 million apps while the Apple App store has 2.2 million apps available for download. Thanks to the numerous apps available on the market, consumers are also able to complete various tasks on their smartphones.
Unfortunately, most consumers don’t know that the apps they use on a daily basis can track their online activities and have access to their location. According to researchers, it’s been discovered that almost 95% of the apps have broken the rules and violated your privacy, even if you didn't give them permission.
These apps can gather location data and phone identifiers very precisely without notifying the users. If you think about it, it’s pretty creepy to know that an app can gain access to all your private things on your smartphone, including passwords, credit card details, pictures, the location of everywhere you go, etc.
Who knows where your personal information can end up?
Unfortunately, there is no way to tell that an app is tracking you. Even if you don’t give permissions, there is no foolproof protection in the world of technology. It’s pretty easy for an app that behaves good today to start behaving badly tomorrow. There are many factors to consider such as sale of the company behind the app.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, new contact tracing apps emerged on the market. These apps are able to identify and notify those people who have come in contact with a virus carrier. Despite the fact that many tech companies and public health authorities worldwide have quickly signed up to support this project, many users are skeptical and believe they will be under unwarranted surveillance even when the pandemic is over.
The success of these apps is totally dependent on user participation. Developers have to overcome potential privacy and security risks in order to assure users that their information will be used only against the virus. However, these apps can make a huge impact on public health and can be very successful if the collected data is encrypted and deleted after 21 days, and doesn’t reveal the identity of the infected user, just like the Singapore’s app TraceTogether did.
How can you protect yourself?
Since we live in a world full of uncertainty, we have compiled a list of tips for you to consider and keep your information private.
Always do a quick app or company research on Google. This search engine will give you a lot of information. It’s suggested by experts to write the name of the app and the phrases "scam" or "data scandal" in order to find out if the company experienced any data or privacy breaches. This search will definitely help you discover if data leaks happen often at that company and how they have responded to them. If a company has experienced multiple data breaches, it suggests they aren’t doing anything to solve the issue. It’s also important to look for how long the app has been available and its reviews before downloading. Avoid downloading poorly rated apps.
Always check what kind of permissions the downloaded app is asking for and whether it makes sense for the app to ask for these permissions. For instance, if you have downloaded a simple calculator app, it doesn’t make sense for it to request access to your contact list or your photo gallery. In fact, all apps that request access to data which is not relevant to their function is a warning sign.
If you want to know which apps can access your location, gallery, or other data, check your settings. You can always change permissions by either changing the device settings or uninstalling the app.
Your smartphone needs cyber security protection just like your PC or laptop. Investing in a cyber security program will keep your data and files safe. Also, it will protect you from viruses, spyware and other malware.
If you follow these tips, you won’t have to worry about apps tracking your location or having unwarranted access to your sensitive data and files.