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What the News Isn’t Telling You About Apps

October 22, 2019

Lots of news stories are running about how apps are stealing our data.  They suggest that we should be careful about the apps we download.  But that doesn’t go far enough.  Every app is designed to be a data sucking machine.  Your data is worth money, and the more information they have on you, the more valuable it becomes.  And they certainly not going to pay you the value of your data.

So what can you do.  I prefer to contact a company through a browser, because browsers are limited in the data they can steal.  And browsers are responding to privacy concerns by blocking trackers and ads.  The exception is Chrome.  It’s part of the great Google data sucking machine.  When it requires you to log in before you use it, that’s your big hint.  I wouldn’t have it on my computer.

You can also find free ad blockers like Ghostery.  Although as the browsers become more capable at blocking ads and trackers, they may clash with ad blockers.

Avoid social media like the plague.  They design privacy settings to be difficult to set, and they hide the amount of data they take, not only from you but your friends.  When I said in 2014 that Facebook was a privacy disaster, people looked at me like I was crazy.  Then in 2018, the Cambridge Analytica scandel was exposed.  Who’s laughing now.  I lived for over 65 years without social media, and I doubt that not using it will be the cause of my death.

Finally, you can limit the amount of data your apps can access.  On Android, run the app “Settings”.  Choose “Privacy and Emergency”; then select “App permissions”.  You will see a list of data and devices that apps can access.  Pick a permission, like microphone and camera, and you will see a list of apps, and whether each app can access the permission.  What you find may surprise you.  Google Play (an app store) had permission to access my contacts.  I try to guard my contacts, as other people have entrusted me with their data.  So I turned contacts off, and Google Play complains twice a day, but it works.

I’m sure the iPhone has similar features, but I’m not familiar with it.  I invite anyone who is to comment on this article with the information.


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