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Your Smartphone is a Snitch – How to Stay Away From Identity Theft

Developments in technology allow us to do a whole host of amazing things through our phones which may have seemed almost impossible just a few years ago. There are apps for just about everything you could imagine, with hundreds of new ones being created each month to make life a bit easier.

There is a darker side to the mobile app industry, however, and along with all the data sharing and increased device usability comes a host of potential security threats, many of which you would never even know about.

Secret Information Sharing from Apps

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Image Via Flickr by Phil Roeder

The Wall Street Journal conducted a study of the information being collected by different app providers during the download and use of 101 popular apps. More than half of these apps were found to be sending out the phone’s unique ID to external companies without any consent or knowledge from the user. Almost half were also found to be giving out location information, and a further five companies handed out age and gender info.

Some of the apps responsible for the information leakage included PaperToss, Grindr, TextPlus4, and a MySpace app, which have hundreds of thousands of downloads between them. The information was being given out to ad networks and was often then used for direct mobile marketing by the companies.

You’re Being Followed

95% of all cell phones are now fitted with GPS systems partly due to functionality requirements and partly due to government regulations which stipulate that it’s necessary to aid the emergency services in locating victims of crime. Whilst most people utilize the GPS capability on their smartphone for online maps, traffic busters, and other apps, they do not realize that their location is also being tracked by others.

Breach Of Confidence

Whilst some of the facts and figures that have been reported about information leaks and digital tracking is extremely alarming to the vast majority of people, it’s actually not breaking any laws in most cases. We all assume that networks and app providers are looking after our best interests and have a strict information privacy policy, but this is simply not true.

In fact, a large majority of apps in the WSJ investigation did not even have a simple written privacy policy, so when handing out details from users of their app, they’re not doing anything illegal. Apple and Google did not have written privacy options either, which just goes to show how common the problem is.

Taking Matters Into Your Own Hands

If you are concerned with the amount of personal data that is being handed out by companies, it’s time to be much more vigilant about who you download games, apps, and software from. Most reputable companies are strong believers in customer privacy and they will have written policies for you to view before handing over your information. There are also security measures available for your smartphone such as those provided by Life Lock.

Smartphones have been at the forefront of the digital revolution in recent years, transforming the way in which we access the internet, communicate with each other and entertain ourselves, yet this same technology is giving away our personal information and potentially causing a security threat.

By Jessica Snow

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