Researchers at The Conversation this week revealed that more than 7 out of 10 smartphone apps are sharing your data with third party tracking companies such as Google Analytics, the Facebook Graph API or Crashlytics.
While most smartphone users are aware that at least a few of their apps share their data, it’s still worrying that over 70% of our apps are selling on our information. Yet worse is the realization that many of these apps share our data because we allow them to.
When you install an app on Android or iOS, the app will request permission to access information from the device. Some of the time, this data is necessary for the app to work; for instance, Maps needs access to your location services to find out where you are. Your instant messaging app also can’t let you send images unless you allow it to access your Pictures file.
However, many apps request permissions that aren’t necessary to run the app—and once that access has been given, the app developer can then sell your data on to anyone who’ll pay for it.
So what can you do about it?
When installing a new app, do a little research into which permissions are actually necessary for that app to work properly. The internet is a great resource for information like this. If the app doesn’t need access to certain data, don’t allow it to. If the app insists on having access to your data when you know it doesn’t really need it, delete the app.
If you can’t find information on the developer or how the app works, delete it.
If the app has come from a non-official app store or source, delete it.
Delete all non-essential apps from your smartphone altogether (it’ll help your device run faster, anyway).
Finally: Apps that sell your data often do so quietly. They don’t make their business model clear, and they don’t respond to your questions. While you may be happy giving over access to some of your data to receive, for instance, a free app, you should always be told if your data will be sold, and in what way it will be monetized. Ask questions, do research, and if you have any doubt, delete it.