Recently, Chinese Uber, Didi, was forced to be removed from app store by the Chinese government because it illegally collected users’ personal data and compromised their online privacy. Although that’s mostly a governmental behavior, it still calls for sufficient attention because it’s really easy for applications to collect, store and use users’ data.
How Many Apps Have Been Installed in Your Smartphone?
Have you figured out how many apps you’ve installed on your smartphone? You can calculate if you’re interested, and I believe the result will definitely shock you. According to some statistics released by buildfire in 2021, the average smartphone user has 80+ apps on their smartphone. Do you believe it? Are you using so many apps every day? Naturally not.
What Information is Most Needed by Apps?
Apps provide services to users but also call for information from users as well. The most information needed by apps mainly cover the following items:
Phone numbers and verification codes are usually used to testify the identification of a real person as a mobile service is used. A personal phone number plays a role as an ID card for users as they create an account on an app. A valid phone number is required, and its validity is testified via a verification code sent to your device through SMS.
Apart from a phone number, an email address is often used to testify to the identification of users as they register on apps. Nowadays, an email address is less required than phone numbers because everyone is allowed to create multiple email addresses while it’s not easy to get a personal phone number. As an email address is asked by an app, a verification link is provided in a no-reply email and the registration will come to an end until the link is clicked for confirmation.
A username is usually called for by the profile of an app and it can be tracked by it. Sometimes, a person’s real name is used as a username so that some users’ real names can be acquired. But it seldom occurs these days.
Home address is usually called for by apps for shopping since your home address should be included in your profile.
Apart from personal information, apps also have permission from smartphones to get further information.
Some apps are allowed to have access to your real-time location so that no matter where you are, your apps will know that.
Camera and Microphone
Camera and microphone are usually called for when image shots and audio are required, which is especially true for instant messaging apps supporting text, audio and video chatting. Camera and microphone are the easiest tunnels where hacking takes advantage of and signs of camera and microphone hacking should be learned before eliminating them. As soon as the camera gets accessible, images are accessible, too.
Some apps like to have access to your contacts stored in your mobile phone so as to lead more users to the app and let their users know their friends are using the app as well. Once an app gets access to your contacts, your friends or family will be traceable based on their phone numbers.
Phone Calls and Messages
Apart from contacts, some apps strive to have access to your phone calls and messages to get more numbers from your contacts and read the verification codes from your messages.
How to Tell Your Apps are Collecting Your Data?
Now that you’ve known the information type on your smartphone tends to be tracked by your apps, then how to tell that? Here are some tips.
Check Your Apps on iOS
Step 1. Open the Settings on your iOS device.
Step 2. Find the app (Snapchat for instance) you want to check and enter it by clicking.
Step 3. Then comes a list of all the accesses the app can access and how you’ve selected. The list contains Location, Contacts, Photos, Microphone, Camera, Siri & Search, etc. Here you are able to enable and disable the accesses based on your needs.
Check Your Apps on Android
Step 1. Open the Settings on your Android device.
Step 2. Enter the “Apps” item.
Step 3. Scroll to find the app (Google for instance) you want to check and enter it by clicking.
Step 4. Tap the “Permissions” to enter.
Step 5. Then comes a list of all the accesses the app can access and how you’ve set. The list contains Physical activity, SMS, Calendar, Call logs, Camera, Contacts, Location, Microphone, Phone, and Storage. Here you are able to enable and disable the accesses based on your needs.
To What Extent Can You Allow Your Apps to Access Permissions?
Before allowing an app to access the permissions on your smartphone, the following questions should be considered first.
- Do I know what information and permissions an app is requesting?
- Am I comfortable sharing personal information with this app developer?
- Does the app really need the device permissions it is requesting?
If the above questions are answered in an active voice, then you can accept the permissions. Otherwise, it’s optimal to deny.