How to Secure Privacy when Using Mobile Apps
Mobile applications, or apps, have changed smart phones as dramatically as smart phones have changed communication. Though phone apps are very convenient for completing numerous transactions with your phone, they also present huge privacy risks when it comes to your personal information. Any access to personal data can result in identity theft, a crime in which someone impersonates another as a means of stealing money from bank accounts, charging credit cards, opening new accounts, receiving medical treatment, or various other forms of fraud.
Identity thieves intentionally violate the privacy of others and use their personal information for financial gain, to create legal troubles, and more. Sadly, victims of identity theft through stolen personal information can spend years repairing damage to their credit rating, legal reputation, and financial situation. This often comes at serious financial and emotional cost. Though not everyone becomes a victim of identity theft, any access to your personal data creates potential for privacy invasion. Therefore, it’s essential to understand how to secure your privacy when using mobile apps.
How Is Privacy at Risk when Using Mobile Apps?
Your privacy is at risk through any attempts to collect personally identifiable information (PII). PII refers to specific or full pieces of identifiable data that can be used to discern or trace someone’s identity.
Examples of PII include:
- Full, legal name
- Social security number
- Phone number
- Driver’s license number
- Email address
- Account numbers
- Passwords and/or personal identification numbers (PINs)
What many people don’t realize is that PII also includes peripheral data such as social media pictures, mother’s maiden name, and even purchases that can be linked to your online accounts through mobile apps. This means that any use of apps on your phone multiplies your risk of stolen PII, identity theft, and other breaches of privacy through tracking your internet footprint.
Any personal information that is present on a mobile app can be accessed through your mobile devices. Therefore, securing privacy when using mobile apps is essential for your protection.
How to Secure Privacy when Using Mobile Apps
There are many steps and actions to take in order to secure privacy when using mobile apps. This includes applications on your phone, tablet, laptop, and any other devices. Though securing your privacy can take time and effort, it’s worth the result of lowering your risk of becoming victimized through identity theft or internet fraud.
Here are some important steps to take as a means of protecting your personal information and privacy when using mobile apps:
- Uninstall or delete all unnecessary apps: Most mobile device users are unaware of the amount of personal information that is associated with and can be retrieved through mobile apps. One way to significantly reduce your privacy risk is to uninstall or delete every app that is not essential to your needs. This includes uninstalling unnecessary default apps that come with your device. Most smart phones come with bundled apps for consumers, including GPS, weather trackers, calendars, etc. Mobile apps should be uninstalled or deleted unless they are crucial to daily functions.
- Don’t share your location: Sharing your whereabouts with your existing mobile apps puts your personal information at risk. Therefore, its vital that you don’t voluntarily or involuntarily share your location. You can prevent individual apps from accessing your location through apps permissions. This can take time to complete, but it’s important for privacy protection.
- Avoid adding apps unless absolutely necessary: There are an overwhelming number of mobile apps that are not preinstalled on a device, available for purchase or free installation through platforms known as app stores. These apps feature everything from games, entertainment, and access to online shopping. It can be tempting to build a network of apps on your mobile device, to have everything accessible with ease and immediacy. Unfortunately, each mobile app you add to a device substantially compounds threat to your privacy.
- Other mobile app protections: In addition to removing apps that aren’t essential, you can protect your privacy in other ways with the apps that you use. You can limit the amount of data sent to the cloud by preventing your apps from syncing. Be vigilant about checking what permissions your apps require and do not use those that request access to sensitive data or PII.
Of course, using mobile apps is extremely convenient. The number of applications available and their steadily growing capabilities allow consumers to make quick and easy transactions, right through their phone. At the same time, companies and internet thieves have even greater access to consumers’ PII. This invites invasion of privacy through theft of personal data and undue influence through data mining and targeted ads.
What used to be a platform for games and other diversions on mobile devices has grown into a system of applications that influence daily life. For example, mobile apps are beginning to fulfill a role in the healthcare industry with virtual appointments and access of medical information. This may appear to have widespread benefits when it comes to receiving general medical advice or treatment without having to enter a medical office or hospital.
However, the implications for PII and threat of privacy are growing as quickly as the development and sophistication of mobile applications. Any information you provide through mobile apps is accessible through your mobile device and that application. This includes the most personal of information which is your medical history. There is relatively no regulation of mobile apps, meaning that your personal information and privacy are not protected by any governing authority.
Unfortunately, there is no sure way of protecting your personal information and privacy with the use of mobile applications. In addition, securing your privacy by uninstalling apps can take time and effort. However, any limitation of access to your PII can greatly reduce the chances that your privacy will be compromised. In addition, by securing privacy as much as possible when using mobile apps, you reduce the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft or other devastating fraud.