The advantage of a smartphone is that it’s mobile. This means you can use it anywhere and connect to the internet anytime. In addition, modern phones are versatile, allowing you to chat with friends and family, use social media, manage finances, conduct business, and much more.
Unfortunately, some apps you install can risk your security and privacy. For example, they know where you live and work, your friends, where you travel, etc. This is a lot of personal information and if you care about your privacy, be cautious with the following apps.
Sometimes you provide very private information when using period tracker apps. This can include your libido levels, sexual activity, menstrual information, flow changes, etc. Unfortunately, the data can be compromised or sold to third parties.
For example, Flo, a popular period tracking app, was found sharing users’ private data with analytics companies like Google and Facebook. Moreover, another leading period tracker known as Glow has major vulnerabilities in its data storage.
Furthermore, the overturning of the Roe v. Wade case in the US poses new risks. Law enforcement can use the data in period tracking apps as evidence of illegal abortion. So, be cautious when giving too much personal data on these apps.
Many coffee shops like Tim Hortons have apps allowing you to order your favorite beverage. However, they have a reputation for tracking user location, which is an invasion of privacy. Others, like the Starbucks app, store sensitive data on HTTP instead of HTTPS. This is not safe as anyone can access your information. So, although those free cups of coffee through the loyalty program are desirable, you should be cautious.
Most dating apps will ask for information like sexual orientation, age, religion, and other personal preferences to get you with potential matches. The scope of data you provide on these apps makes breaches severe.
Recently, popular apps have been affected. For example, Grindr suffered a data breach in 2018, exposing the private data of millions of users, including HIV statuses. Also, OkCupid, Tinder, and Grindr were found sharing sensitive users’ data to behavior analytics and advertising platforms, violating the GDPR rules.
Fitness trackers collect a vast amount of personal health information like heart rate, food intake, sleeping patterns, GPS location, and more. This makes them susceptible to data breaches. For example, a Fitbit vulnerability exposed over 61 million fitness tracker records in 2021.
Thankfully, many fitness tracking apps offer users control over their data. For instance, Google Fit, Apple Health, Strava, and Fitbit have data access controls, allowing you to choose what to share or track. There is even an option to delete the entire account with a few clicks.
Unfortunately, not all apps will give you this level of control. So, consider the control the fitness tracker app offers before signing up.
Although contact tracing apps help coordinate government response, they bring a unique privacy issue. Usually, each government will require different permissions, but most will have access to location and testing data. Many tracking apps will work fine with an internet connection but others will require access to the calendar, address book, microphones, Wi-Fi info, etc.
It might be mandatory to install contact tracing apps in some countries. However, you can still maintain your privacy by using an alternate phone.
While the above apps can compromise your privacy, there are ways you can safeguard your private information.
The easiest way to always protect your privacy is by using a reliable VPN like NordVPN or PrivateInternetAccess. It will secure your network and automatically encrypt your traffic with robust encryption. As a result, no one can access your information.
When entering personal information, it is advisable to set up secondary emails, Facebook accounts, and Google Accounts. Using alternate accounts on apps will help to protect your personal details.
You can control the information your apps can access on most devices. For example, Android 11 phones allow you to check the apps that have access to your personal information. Also, on iOS devices, you can see the permissions you have given to the apps. Fortunately, Apple even offers a privacy report that shows how apps use the permissions you have granted them.
Most Android phones have a feature that links with other devices and Bluetooth tracking devices to identify your location. Sadly, the feature runs in the background even when Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth are turned off. It is available under Location>Improve accuracy on Android 11.
If the above tips are not viable and you must use an invasive app, the best action is to use an alternate phone. You should turn it on only when using the said app, which is called sandboxing. The alternate phone acts as a sandbox to run risky apps.