How much information are your apps accessing – and how you can protect yourself
You use apps everyday but most people are alarmingly unaware that some could be compromising your privacy and doing some risk things with your information.
Internet security company Symantec has released some new research that shine a light on just how much information our apps are actually collecting about us.
Usually users download an app and quickly hit “accept” and “next” instead of actually reading what information the app wants to access and share and how much of your privacy could be compromised.
One example is the Android Flashlight app which has been downloaded 10 million times. Sounds harmless right? Did you know one of the app’s requests is to access user’s calls, messages and camera?
Should we hand over that permission and information to a developer that created a flashlight? The answer is no – if we took the time to read the app permissions.
Symantec took a look at the top 100 apps on Google Play and the App Store to see just how much information they are gathering.
Personal identifiable information (PII) shared with apps includes your phone number (Android 9 per cent, iOS 12 per cent), email address (Android 44 per cent, iOS 48 per cent), username (Android 30 per cent, iOS 33 per cent), address (Android 5 per cent, iOS 4 per cent).
Risky permissions, where the app requests data or resources including the user’s private information or could affect the user’s stored data or other apps, is also an issue.
These include tracking your location (Android 45 per cent, iOS 25 per cent), accessing your camera (Android 46 per cent, iOS 25 per cent), recording audio (Android 235 per cent, iOS 9 per cent), read phone call log (Android 10 per cent, not available on iOS) and reading SMS messages (Android 15 per cent, not available on iOS).
So what can we do to protect ourselves?
Here are tips by Norton by Symantec to take back control of your privacy.
Before you install an app, Symantec encourages asking a few questions:
- Do I know what information and permissions an app is asking?
- Am I comfortable sharing personal information with this app developer?
- Does the app really need the device permissions it is requesting?
How to avoid granting excessive permissions if you have already installed the app:
- In the case of Android apps, you can remove unnecessary permissions by going to the Settings menu and then clicking on Permissions. Removing permissions may cause a poorly designed app to stop working. Well-designed apps will indicate if they need a permission when you attempt to perform the function that requires it.
- In the case of iOS apps, you can remove unnecessary permissions by going to the Settings menu and then clicking on Privacy.
How to protect your personal information:
- Ideally, don’t sign into an app using your social networking site account. If you do, check what data the app will receive from the social network account.
- If you do sign into apps using your social network account, be frugal about how much information you provide in your public profile on social networking sites.
- When you post data to a social networking site from an app, think about whether you want the social networking site to have this information about your app.
How to check what apps are using data from your Facebook account:
- Go to the small down-arrow at the top right of the homepage and select Settings.
- Select “Apps & Websites in the menu on the left to discover what apps are actively using your data.
- Select each app to view and edit the permissions on the data it uses.
How to check what apps are using data from your Google account:
- Visit https://myaccount.google.com/permissions
- Here you can review and edit what third-party apps have access to your Google account.
- You can also review and edit which apps are using Google for sign in and what information is being shared with them.