Monday, June 22, 2015

Mobile Apps Snoop On Your Location Way More Than You Think!

Lots of people have "no idea," that their location is being tracked!

A Carnegie Mellon University computer scientist recently studied how much the average mobile app user really knows about the rampant sharing of personal data. The study also looked at the impact this knowledge would have on behavior - in other words, how many people would chose to change app settings on their smartphones after learning how much data that app is collecting?

Twenty-four Android users were shown which apps were accessing their data and how often. One user, for instance, found his location data had been shared 5,398 times by 10 apps within 14 days. Just one of these apps, Groupon, checked in on the user's whereabouts 1,600 times over that 2-week window.

Fifty-eight percent of the study participants took action, specifically changing their app settings, upon learning of this rampant sharing of personal details. The other 40 percent, likely representative of the rest of the world, did nothing. That's probably because apps don't often allow users to pick and choose the data they are willing to share. 

As John Zorabedian wrote on Sophos' Naked Security, "...without the ability to change app permissions on a granular level, users are left with little choice - you can either use the app or not."

The next time you are tempted to download an app, pay careful attention to the permissions screen. Are you willing... really... to share the information they want with potentially hundreds or thousands of others, to use as they want? Is the reward that app promises worth the risk?

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