A lot of people nowadays are mindlessly downloading apps they find to be interesting online. Most of them download for games, camera features, calendar reminders, fitness apps, and sometimes even for financial planning. A lot of apps allure users to use them and take advantage of users’ naivete to their advantage.
Rumors spread out before about Facebook wanting to own your account’s content, all the pictures, and whatnot. Although the rumor was a hoax as Facebook confirmed, it made a lot of people panic about their privacy.
However, some people are still unaware of the ways their information can be shared or stolen. This discreet act of stealing is somehow embedded in privacy and policies. They are written too long, in small fonts, long uncut paragraphs and in hyperbolic terms.
The act of blindly saying “I agree” is simply because you thought they would be honest and ethical enough not to take things that aren’t theirs. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Your smartphone may not be smart enough to tell you someone is stealing something from you.
But is there a foolproof way of using smartphones? How can you become more aware of what’s a white steal (lie) and what’s not? Will you still be able to maximize your phone’s use if you put an extra caution on downloading apps?
These maybe just a few of the questions running in your mind right now, if you’re interested to know more here are a few things you need to remember about Apps and how they can steal information from you.
Apps Store Data Whether You Like Or Not
There it is. That is basically what you want to know. They store information from you. The questions are why they would do that, what makes them do that, when would they do that, where will they put the information they got from you, who will take that information and how do they do it.
Terms and Conditions Page Significance
The moment you clicked on “I agree” on the terms and conditions prompt, you mean to say that you want them to do whatever they want to do on the document that you agreed upon. As mentioned, because these terms and conditions page are quite long and usual, people got desensitized to its purpose and blindly agree just like what most people do.
This is one of the biggest cultural mistakes that people do online. There should be a terms and conditions page before you even try to download the app, and it should not appear as a mere prompt that people always see. The terms and conditions page should have a specific page on the website offering the app that is comprehensive enough for a layman to understand.
The thing is, some of the terms are probably sugar coated for people to download without hesitation. Sometimes the terms are so complicated or difficult that anyone without a tech-savvy spirit wouldn’t understand. Since the terms and conditions page plays a vital role with your information sharing and privacy rules, it should be displayed in a significant manner.
Nonetheless, things turned out to be built that way and the only way you can do to protect yourself is to be extra vigilant and doubly aware on this matter.
Why Do Apps Store Your Data?
The most obvious reason why apps need your data is because of function. For example, Messenger and other messaging apps store data because they need it for you to review the messages. The same goes for all other apps everywhere.
Some apps, however, also store data that is not related to its purpose. A few reasons for storing your personal data is because of advertisement, content feed, or mainly for the purpose of selling it to other companies.
One basic example is Facebook. Facebook stores data like what you liked, shared and commented to for them to advertise better, send you relevant content and to make the overall experience with the app better. Google also stores your browsing history data. They need it for the purpose of advertisement, sometimes for your cause like if you want to review pages you already have looked into or browsing history, pages you bookmarked, and for other marketing purposes.
Search engines will use your data for them to track how long you stayed in an advertised content or page, the keywords you used for them to make your browsing better and for SEO professionals to get better information about your browsing behavior or style. All this and more, are the positive reasons why people wants to store data from you.
Google, Facebook and other online entities are covered under certain international privacy standards. However, this can’t be universally absolute to each country. This is the reason why you should be doubly aware of the things that you do online.
Even your internet service provider cannot protect you from all the possible consequences of app storage and information sharing.
What Kind Of Information Does Apps Store?
Did you know Google can tell where you’ve been to all this time? Yes, if you have turned on a specific phone GPS and location feature, they can track the places that you have been to the moment you allowed them to track you.
About what kind of information is mostly stored, the most common information used by most apps are:
- Phone, Email Contact Information, and Contacts
- Internet Browsing Data
- Device Information (e.g., Make and Model)
- Device Unique IDs (e.g., Serial Numbers)
- App Usage or Behavior
- Calendar Information
- Call Logs
- Messaging Data
Some apps will give you an individual prompt if you want to share personal information like your phone number or email (basically upon signing up) but it should serve solely for the purpose they have defined. One example is Gmail. It will sometimes ask for your phone number upon log in to confirm that the login request is not from a robot.
As mentioned this information that is stored in your device can be taken by any app, and if the purpose of the developer is mainly to steal for their advantage then most smartphone users are likely doomed. Don’t store your financial information or government IDs on your phones or devices, no matter how personal, secured and private you think they are.
Hackers and thieves can get information from anywhere they see an opportunity. Also, don’t let anyone just connect through your wifi network because once they get in, they can have access to shared files between computers and smart devices, and that’s not something you want to happen.
Also, do not easily connect your devices to wifi networks inside coffee shops, that don’t guarantee full information security.
Where The Apps Store The Information
The apps have two options in storing information, either local and internal storage or through servers. When it is local or internal storage, the information they get stays on your phone and is logged through the app activity which you can easily delete anytime.
On the other hand, information stored through a server are saved on the App’s main server itself. They need it for app mechanism and function. It can be an online server like a cloud, or a machine they maintain.
This is why when Yahoo admitted being hacked by some “government-funded” hackers, a lot of people were troubled and scared. As we all know, people send sensitive information through emails and Yahoo is a well-known platform for this kind of purpose.
How They Take And Share Your Information
App developers get your information through your manual and willful sharing of information. When you type your contact information, you automatically give them the right to use it according to their terms.
However, the information you typed and shared do not reach their servers in the same naked numbers and letters. Pretty much the app developers will not be able to read the information because it is translated by the app or a machine they solely created to store your information for your security.
It reaches them in a form or manner that is rehashed, cloaked and only machine-readable. Unless of course, they want things to be as obvious to see it, but that isn’t how it normally works. This is also one way for them to ensure only they can interpret the data once they also get hacked. Just like Yahoo, other email and app developers are also vulnerable to being stolen from.
There is no surefire way on how to make sure your information and privacy uncompromised online. No one can tell who’s the good guy and who’s not in the web world. The only thing you can do is to be extra vigilant. Also to be knowledgeable about the existing laws that protect your information from theft.
There are a few indicators if an app developer is trustworthy. One of them is if they display their contact information such as email and website. Unless provided accordingly, the app you are about to download might be risky.
Jenny Granados is a tech writer, passionate blogger and a gadget enthusiast at the same time. She likes to keep herself up to date with the latest technology trends and advancements. She is a writer in behalf of Skyphonez.