Mobile apps have made our lives much easier in many ways, and you don’t even have to pay to use most of them. But everything has a price. “If something is free, you are the product”, as the old saying goes.
When it comes to many popular apps, the product is you, or rather your data: in other words, your privacy. Although not all apps are monetized through the collection of personal data and therefore invasive, it is certainly good to know which are the worst offenders. Here are some apps you should avoid if you’re worried about your data.
1. Facebook (and related apps)
Since its launch in 2004, Facebook has come under intense criticism for its handling of user privacy, suffered multiple major breaches, and found itself embroiled in more controversy than any other Silicon giant. Valley.
It’s no secret that Facebook is incredibly invasive and tracks users in more ways than one realizes at this point, but other apps under the Meta umbrella are no better.
Rumors that Facebook is “snooping” on people and eavesdropping on their conversations without their consent have been circulating for ages – you’ve probably mentioned an item or product to a friend, only to see it advertised on Facebook moments later.
In fact, Facebook doesn’t even need to spy on you. The company collects so much relevant data that it can predict, with decent accuracy, your next purchase and your future online behavior in general.
To put it simply, if you care about privacy in any capacity, you shouldn’t use Facebook and related apps.
2. Weather apps
These days, there’s an app for everything, but few have proven to be as useful and reliable as weather apps. It’s cloudy outside and you’re wondering whether to bring an umbrella with you? Just check your weather app and you will know what to do. Seems quite simple and straightforward.
But going back to the user being the product, weather apps are actually notorious for their data collection practices. For instance, The New York Times analyzed 20 popular weather apps to see how much user data they collect and how.
Of the 20 apps the researchers examined, 17 stated in their privacy policies that they collect user data for advertising purposes. Additionally, 14 of them were found to use location information to track devices, and location information is extremely valuable to advertisers.
AccuWeather, one of the most popular apps of its kind, was caught in 2017 sending users’ location data without permission. In fact, as ZdnetComment reported at the time, it turned out that AccuWeather was sending location data to a third party even with location sharing turned off.
AccuWeather also collects information from sensors on your device, including “gyroscopes, accelerometers, and altimeters that measure things like rotation, velocity direction, and altitude.”
So what else does AccuWeather know about you? According to his Confidentiality declaration, as long as your location services are turned on, the app knows your exact GPS coordinates. However, the statement notes that even if you turn location services off, your phone “may automatically send or receive this other information as long as these other types of communication are enabled.”
3. Dating apps
A Stanford A study found that 39% of couples who met in the United States in 2017 met online. It’s safe to assume that number has only increased since then, with dating apps such as Tinder, Hinge, eHarmony and Bumble becoming more popular than ever.
If you’re single and looking to meet someone, dating apps are a great option, even a necessity in this age of digitalization and pandemics. But are they a good idea if you care about protecting your privacy? In short, no.
By default, dating apps force you to divulge a lot of personal information that you typically wouldn’t be comfortable sharing with complete strangers, let alone sleazy mega-corporations. Your name, date of birth, sexual orientation, photos, phone number and email address are usually required to create an account.
And if you want to find someone with similar interests, you’ll probably connect your Spotify, Instagram, and Facebook accounts, write a personalized biography, maybe even reveal where you went to school, or talk about your career. And naturally, you can’t use a dating app without disclosing your location. What would be the goal?
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to dating apps. According to Mozilla Foundation, Tinder not only collects personal data about users, but it also has a pretty terrible record when it comes to protecting against cybercriminals. For example, some 70,000 photos were extracted from the app in 2020 and ended up on a cybercrime forum.
In conclusion, you may stand out like a sore thumb among your friends if you choose to avoid dating apps, but at least you will have your privacy.
Protecting your privacy in the digital space
While it has granted us some anonymity, the internet has also made us the most surveilled population in history. As dystopian as it sounds, there are still steps the average person can take to protect their privacy online.
In general, it’s always a good idea to limit what you share with other people online, double-check any links or files before clicking on them, use strong passwords, and turn on password settings. privacy on any app or device you use.