We’re giving up our privacy and security to download apps for free

Just how far would you go to get an app for free? Are you willing to give up your security and privacy? That’s exactly what consumers are trading when they give up their personal information in exchange for free mobile apps, according to new research by online security experts Norton

The study was conducted among more than 6,000 people in nine countries including 695 Australian tablet and mobile users.

Norton recently kicked off trials with a new tool called Mobile Insight which scans Android apps before they are downloaded for vulnerabilities and privacy risks.

It found personally identifiable information like a device’s phone number, usernames, passwords, call logs, calendar details and even pictures and text messages are accessed by some apps.

Alarmingly almost a third of apps scanned by Norton are even accessing SIM card information including your address book, mobile PIN numbers and your call history.

Norton found 13 per cent of Android apps scanned by Mobile Insights sent the user’s phone number off the device.

“In today’s connected world, mobile devices are more than mini computers in our pockets – they are digital warehouses storing our most personal moments and information, such as photos and videos, conversations with friends and family, health and fitness information, financial data and more,” said Mark Gorrie, head of Norton, Pacific region, Symantec.

“However most consumers unknowingly – sometimes even willingly – put personal information which resides on their mobile phones at risk, compromising their privacy.”

Norton’s survey findings also provided an interesting snapshot about our app usage and habits.

Games are still the most popular apps with 53 per cent of Australians surveyed downloading and playing games on their devices compared with 55 per cent of users globally.

Music apps (51 per cent in Australia, 50 per cent globally) are also in demand along with video apps (30 per cent in Australia, 41 per cent globally).

Of the Australian respondents, 68 per cent expressed concern about securing their financial information on their mobile devices compared to 70 per cent globally.

More than half of the Australians surveyed (53 per cent) are not worried about getting a virus on their smartphone while one in three admit they really don’t know what they are agreeing to when they download an app.

Global findings included one in three respondents where unaware apps could modify their browser bookmarks, access the phone’s camera and microphone and even send photos to an app developer.

And half of those surveyed were unaware apps could send physical location details.

Millennials (those aged 18-34) claim to know what information they are agreeing to provide but scored as low as other age groups in actual knowledge.

Norton can protect smartphone users with Norton Mobile Security to protect against apps that can compromise your privacy and Norton 360 which can keep all of your connected devices safe.




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  • Andrew Bevington

    What about apple apps?

  • stephenfenech

    Apple’s apps are checked and approved through the App Store which has strict privacy and security rules. No such safeguards exist in the Google Play Store.