Think twice before allowing apps to access information on your phone
With security, privacy at risk, know what you’re agreeing to and don’t install app if you don’t really need it
By Edric Wyatt, Special to ThirdCertainty
Does it sometimes seem like every web app you’d like to download to your smartphone demands way too much access to the functionalities of your device, such as access to your contacts lists, geo locator and phone camera?
The über popular “Pokemon Go” game, of course, needs to know your location so you can enjoy the app. But for many other web apps, be they games or a nifty service or tool, consumers all too often must give up an inordinate amount of access in exchange for a comparatively small benefit.
If you’re at all concerned about the privacy and security of yourself, your family or the organization that employs you, perhaps you should think twice, or maybe even a third time, before clicking on the accept button.
Related infographic: Convenience of mobile computing comes at a security cost
Here are a few very plausible scenarios that should cross your mind:
• Does the web app want your contact lists for marketing purposes, to annoy your friends, relatives and work colleagues with unwanted promotions?
• Could the distributor be a bad guy intent on embedding some form of malware on your device to steal from you or to attempt to use your device to infiltrate the organization you work for?
• Do you really want a web app distributor (a total stranger) mapping your daily travel patterns and making note of the places you regularly haunt?
• Do you realize a web app, to which you’ve granted deep access, could be reporting a steady stream of information about you to a storage server controlled by a commercial entity, such as Groupon or The Weather Channel?
It’s noteworthy that consumers have challenged Groupon and The Weather Channel about this type of tracking activity. And there has yet to be a clear reply from the developers of these apps explaining the rationale for this unsolicited monitoring.
Consumers let guard down
But there are other options. In today’s environment, you must be more thoughtful. It is a good idea to take the time to scrutinize the terms and conditions of any web app you are about to download. See if there are ways you can enjoy the app without giving up access to your address book, geo locator or phone cam.
If not, pause for a few moments to weigh the risks vs. the benefits—to yourself, to your family and to the organization that employs you.
And if you truly want to be a conscientious consumer and employee, it is well worth your time to go through the web apps you’ve previously downloaded. If you can think of no good reason for an app to be able to access your contacts list, keep track of your location, or be able to operate your phone cam, you should consider uninstalling that app.
More stories related to web app security and privacy:
Emerging exposure: Rising use of cloud apps creates data leakage pathways
Mobile dating apps come with hidden hazards
‘Pokemon No’—Mobile apps put personal information at risk