Privacy protection: Four ways to ensure your privacy is not compromised while using apps on your smartphone

Smartphones are powerful but can also be vulnerable to some apps in the absence of a security and privacy shield. Apps could take your data and also share with external unknown third parties.

Smartphones these days have become our personal repository of data and carry our entire world. According to a report by App Annie, India accounted for nearly 58 billion of the world’s 175 billion app downloads in 2017. With the democratisation of technology, we have come to be dependent on applications, be it for everyday chores or for limited use. With the proliferation of apps, privacy and security concerns are also on the rise around personal data being indiscriminately collected and shared or worse, misused.

Representational image. Getty Images

Representational image. Getty Images

If the Facebook Cambridge Analytica controversy is any indicator, then it would be naive of us to think that apps don't harvest our data or sell it to third parties to bombard us with targetted advertising.

Smartphones are powerful but can also be vulnerable to some apps in the absence of a security and privacy shield. Apps could take your data and also share with external unknown third parties.

Here are some tips to ensure you are not giving away more than you have to.

Share with Care — Permission misuse is a reality

Some applications request for permissions unnecessary to the functioning of the app. Like a torch app requesting permission to access your photos or your location. One must determine which app really requires access to internet or access to function before clicking on ‘allow’. As more and more forms of personal data are collected, you are making yourself vulnerable to data brokers. They may track all aspects of our lives and sell the collected data with the third party like marketers and advertising agencies. Hence, you should also make sure to check the privacy policy of the application before downloading.

Stick to official sources — App stores & official Apps

We all make sure to buy our gadgets from a trusted seller so as to avoid defective products. Similarly, some apps may contain malware or viruses that could infect your entire phone. Hence, one must ensure that apps are downloaded only from trusted app stores such as the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store as they are safer and comparatively less risky. There have been instances when trustworthy stores are also infested with fake apps like the Blue WhatsApp. Make sure to download official apps and read user reviews as well to know more about its performance. Spending time to research about an application can save you a lifetime of regret. If the app logo looks legit but the app developer is a name you haven't heard of, it would make sense to do a background search of the developer online.

Updates – They are given for a reason

Companies regularly update their apps to add new features and more importantly to remove any bugs. Users should pay heed to notifications and update the app on a timely basis to help fix the security patches. These updates help in preventing malware from entering your phone. Thus, make sure your devices are up to date with the newest version of each application. Both Apple and Android frequently roll out updates, fixing bugs and bringing in new improvements to the software.

Public Wi-Fi — Be very careful

Let’s admit, we all love free Wi-Fi, but let me warn you, it comes at a cost. A lot of public Wi-Fi networks are lacking when it comes to security, which puts our data at a risk to potential hackers. They can pull out your bank account login credentials or other financial evidence, or your photos and videos can be stolen while you are online on a public Wi-Fi network. In a recent report published by Verizon (Annual Data Breach Investigation Report), they found that 89 percent of all cyberattacks involve financial or espionage motives. Additionally, this concern is not limited to enterprises, but also normal users. So a few moments of convenience at an unknown free Wi-Fi hotspot could result in long-lasting harm.

As smartphones and applications start mirroring our personal lives, it has become important more than ever to guard our privacy in this virtual world.

The author is the founder and CEO of Redmorph

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