App Security and Privacy

Many people with a smartphone are generally more aware of the privacy (and, in conjunction, technological and personal security) they give up when installing certain known apps on their phones. News from major media outlets have increased their coverage in recent years over risky apps and services to use.

It’s not all bad, though. Zoom was heavily criticized for their lack of application and service security in 2020, and have been reportedly working hard to improve. And for example, Apple uses their unique positioning in the industry to tout a higher security standard for their customers.

It is now possible to see more detail about what data an app can gather about you, your habits and your iPhone before downloading it. This data can range from your “device ID”, to purchase information, location, camera, microphone and other features on your phone. It also describes what the data is used for. Some companies will sell and share your information to third parties, or use it to market their own products to you more efficiently.

Before installing a new app on my phone, I like to first have a decent understanding of a company’s privacy policies, and compare that to the app’s details in the App Store. Why would a flashlight app or Sudoku game need access to your location?

How to Check App Privacy

  1. On your iPhone, iPad or Mac, go to the App Store, and tap the “Search” button.
  2. Search for an app you’re curious about, and tap the app icon to see the details.
  3. Towards the bottom of the screen, look for “App Privacy”.

This section will show you “Data used to track you,” “Data linked to you,” and, “Data not linked to you.” As an example, let’s take a look at “My Talking Tom 2“.

Cute cat! Who wouldn’t want to play this game??

This is a game that allows you to interact with a fun cat on the screen and take care of it like its your own. Why does this feline need access to my location, and to provide my location to other companies? Why does it need to track my purchases?

Tracking of your kids’ location and other info?

I’m not trying to call out any particular developer here. I doubt there are any nefarious reasons this game exists, and I appreciate the honesty that must go into these App Privacy reviews as they’re written by the company or developer. Inevitably, however, lots of kids are going to download and play this game. I wonder if their parents would want them to be tracked and marketed to through it?

There’s a saying that goes, “If it’s free, you’re the product.” What that means in technology is that, although these organizations aren’t charging money for their product, they’re gathering data about you that will often times be used to market you, (not just to you,) as an individual.

Something to think about!

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