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Privacy and Safety concerns with apps

Privacy concerns have become a serious issue for many consumers. With the large influx of data collection practices from websites, it’s hard to know what you are sharing and with whom you are sharing it with. There are several large companies that have received bad press because of privacy breaches. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, was accused of knowing about the improperly collected data from millions of Facebook users. Since then, Facebook has been asked to request permission of users before releasing personal information.


Facebook is just one company that has been in breach of a privacy policy. Websites are continuously monitoring their traffic, in order to make better marketing decisions. A quickly Googled ‘handmade quilt’ could result in various quilt advertisements popping up on several of your social media feeds. Clearly, consumers everywhere are being monitored. Unfortunately, while we are well-aware of the dangers on our computers and laptops, we rarely give thought about the apps we download so effortlessly. You may not be aware, but it’s possible for there to be privacy and safety concerns with apps as well.


Apps access information


Our smartphones contain vast amounts of personal information. When you think about it, it’s almost overwhelming to realize how much information you carry around with you all day. You carry your phone numbers, addresses, emails, possibly credit card information if you use your phone wallet, photos, videos, and even your current location.


A privacy breach on your phone could be detrimental. Many users don’t realize that each time they download an app, they are giving it permission to access personal parts of their smartphone. Some apps request access to your camera, your photos, and your videos. Even if you do feel comfortable enough allowing access, you may be surprised to find how often your information is shared with third-party companies without your knowledge.


Numerous studies have been conducted to pinpoint what information is being shared without consent. According to Washington Street Journal study many apps transmitted the phone's location in some way. Some apps also sent age, gender and other personal details to outsiders.


Surprised? We were too. Who knew that by playing an innocent app game, you could compromise your safety by reporting your location, your age, and your gender to god knows who?


Both iPhones and Android have privacy issues


The study went on to state, “Both the Android and iPhone versions of Pandora, a popular music app, sent age, gender, location and phone identifiers to various ad networks. iPhone and Android versions of a game called Paper Toss—players try to throw paper wads into a trash can—each sent the phone's ID number to at least five ad companies.”


Luckily, people are noticing these problematic privacy issues. Governments are cracking down on those who share information without telling the end user. And companies are promising their customers they are changing their privacy policies and taking initiative to keep your information safe. According to one study conducted, “MockDroid and TISSA substituted fake information into API calls made by apps, such that apps could still function, but with zero disclosure of users' private information.”


Some apps can help


Users are finding other ways to keep your information hidden from others. For example, the company ExpressVPN works by encrypting and flowing traffic to and from your device by routing it through a server outside your location. Hushed creates alternate, temporary phone numbers for when you are required to hand out your phone number. This keeps your real number hidden.


In the end, it’s up to you to determine how safe apps are. Researching the app you are interested in downloading is a good first step. Look for apps that adopt strict privacy protocols and use transparent policies. Know what you are agreeing to when you allow an app access to your camera and other features. At least for now, it’s hard to say any app is 100% safe, which is something to keep in mind.


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