Your phone is your personal assistant, entertainer, and friend. We share the best and worst moments of our lives with our closest friends via text, and we search for our every interest and curiosity on Google. Our phones are always near us but there is no justification to have every little thing we do or say recorded.
Online privacy concerns are nothing new to the tech world. But with frequent app updates and their coinciding updates to terms and conditions, it is a good thing to check-in on your phone apps periodically to make sure they are only accessing the phone features and information that they truly need to operate.
If you want to use apps but are concerned about privacy, it is important to take measures to safeguard your data.
When you install an app, you don’t often get the backstory on why the app wants to access seemingly unrelated features or data. Most phone apps keep quiet about what data they are collecting and what they are doing with it. App companies rely on the fact that our desire to use the app is larger than our desire for privacy. They exploit the fact that we don't take the time to set the appropriate permission settings - the vast majority of us just press, “accept”.
The real money-maker for some free apps is collecting user data and then selling the information to advertisers through "Programmatic Ad Buying Platforms". For example, after you send a private email or talk about something you are interested in and then out of nowhere you see an advertisement for it on social media, "Surprise! Is this what you are looking for?" That is a direct result of someone profiting off your information.
Even Mark Zuckerberg has his camera and mic jack covered with tape.
We downloaded a "Flashlight" app to show just how prevalent data collecting actually is. When looking at the Permission Details (Android), you will see that the Flashlight app has access to our Camera, Location, Phone, Storage, and Full Network Access - which basically means it can go online. Why would a Flashlight app need access to any of this? You got it, to sell your information. The free app isn't free, it can be costing you your confidentiality.
Some people think that if you don't give the app the permissions it asks for, it won't work; this isn't entirely true. The best rule to follow is, "if you aren’t going to use that app to connect to that permission feature, then turn it off".
If you like to upload pictures to Facebook, but not “take” pictures with Facebook, then turn the “Camera Permission off” and leave the “Storage Permission on.”
When you change permissions/privacy settings on your phone you might get an alert: Keep in mind, turning off permissions may cause apps on your device to lose functionality; this typically isn’t the case. In the event that the app does change how you want it to work, go into your settings and turn that permission back on. Once in a while, the app may remind you that you have turned functions off that it wants to access but typically no harm is done and the app functions properly.
It is really quite easy to manage app permissions. Here is how you change permissions/privacy on devices:
Android Permissions (Changes all permissions one app at a time)
Settings > Applications > Application Manager > Select Application > Select Permissions > On/Off
iPhone Privacy (Changes all apps one permission at a time)
Settings > Privacy > Select Permissions Section > On/Off
All of our data being collected is called “Big Data”. “Big Data” may seem simple and fairly innocent right now, but what are they doing with all this information? How could it be used for or against us in the future? Time will tell, but until then we recommend you continue to pay attention to what permissions your favorite apps have.
It’s OK to control your privacy settings, we give you permission.