For most users, the convenience and immediate gratification of mobile app download and use has brought a new dimension to mobile phone and Internet usage. A dimension that has merged the worlds of constant connectivity and communication with that of private information storage, collection, and creation.
In this new world of constant communication and information access, we must be dedicated in the preservation of our privacy. This means that due care needs to be taken whenever we download and use new apps on our smartphones and tablets.
There are endless articles and guides on making sure you only share necessary information on social media, and that you are ever mindful of who you share it with. But not a lot is being said about how to be safe while consuming the millions of apps available for use.
Only 30% of apps today are actually purchasable. 50% are advertising supported and many use in-app purchases of virtual goods to support their development costs and make money. However, information is also valuable, and many apps will collect personal information to profile you better as a customer.
Developers may collect personal information to deliver more relevant advertising to you, (as Google has been doing online for years), or they may actually be collecting and potentially stealing your information for less legitimate forms of trade.
Whatever the reason of information collection, it has become extremely important for smartphone and tablet users to make informed decisions before installing apps onto their device. People should not be relaxed and too trusting when opening up their mobile lives to new developers.
A man walks into a crowded bar…
I like to use an analogy when explaining to people why or how they should be careful when installing new apps – A man walks into a crowded bar…he walks from table to table saying, “I know a good joke. In fact I know hundreds, would you like to hear them?” The common response from this fun-loving, relaxed crowd is “Sure, why not? We’ll listen to the first one and if it’s no good, we’ll just tell him to keep moving.”
Then the unknown man says, “Now, before I start I will need to know your names, your phone numbers, have access to the details in your address book, take a look at your wedding photos, and also I’d like to be able to see your exact location whenever I want, is this OK?” Suddenly, the relaxed crowd becomes a little suspicious and declines the offer…
At best, people tend to be unaware of the risks, and at worst, accepting of the fact that many apps invade their privacy. So the next time you install an app on your smartphone or tablet, please check the permissions, validate the trustworthiness of the developer by reading the reviews and checking their website, and keep your private information private.
I work for Trend Micro and opinions expressed here are my own.
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