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Apps, Your (Private)Life Made Public

Ever wonder who is snooping around in your phone looking at your private messages, photos, call logs, or even your geographic location? The short answer: maybe certain apps. Now before you start deleting everything on your phone that might not ever need to see the light of day or become petrified with fear about the FBI bursting through your door, keep reading. By the end of this article you will have the knowledge to make informed decisions about what risks you are taking when you allow those app permissions. More importantly, you will know how to stop apps from making your private life public.

Maintaining control over your mobile device data is to know what “App Permissions” really are.  App Permissions are exactly what their title implies, permissions given to the app by the owner of the device to access the requested data and device functions. Those app permissions can give apps on your device a huge range of access to your personal data. Everything from your contacts list, photos, videos, and to even be able to read and send text messages. One thing to note here is that when an app requests permissions, that is not necessarily a bad thing. A photo app by necessity will need permissions to access your photos. If the photo app also has a feature to share a photo via text, then naturally the app might also need access to your phone's contacts and text functions. The important thing to keep in mind when granting app permission is your comfort level with the permissions requested and to know who has access to what information on your device.

Privacy issues arise when the user is unaware of what the app is doing with their data. For example, you install an app to play a game on your mobile device and the app requests permissions to your contacts, calendar, location, photo/Media/Files, depending on the features built into the app, there might be legitimate reasons for requesting some of the permissions listed. However, the purpose for the permissions request may not be intended to offer you a better experience, but for the company to collect data on you in order to sell this information for other marketing purposes, or to try and get you make other purchases. Another thing to consider when granting these permissions is how the app company in question is storing your data? Is it encrypted? What security measures do they have in place to prevent your information from being stolen? Imagine if you have personal data backed up to cloud storage and that data is hacked? App permission is a very easy thing to grant, but it has very far reaching implications for the user who grants them. So what can you do to keep your private life from becoming public?

The way to minimize exposure of your private data is to simply beware of what the apps on your phone are doing and ensure you are the one in control of your data. Yes, this means reading those boring “click through agreements” and to also carefully understanding what permissions you are granting each app on your mobile device. The best way to stay in control is to manage all of your apps permissions. Mobile operating systems allow for just that. So if you want to ensure your private data stays private, then manage those app permissions instead of blindly accepting them. For information on how to manage Android permissions click here and for Apple iOS click here.