How do apps share your personal data?

Without realising, you could be sharing large amounts of personal data when you sign up to new applications. Detailed tracking allows third parties, such as advertisers, to single out users and target them in future. Meanwhile, some apps even track phone usage outside the app.

Many of the metrics tracked by mobile applications give detailed insight into our lives. Whether you’re using an iPhone for the first time or distributing devices to your staff, it’s worth knowing about data collection.

Location tracking apps: What do I need to know?

It’s easy to give permission to an app for your location without realising.

There are several reasons for this, but in most cases, it’s likely that you’ve unknowingly approved some data collection policies. When apps sell user data onto affiliates, it’s easy for sensitive information to end up in the wrong hands and result in a data leak.

Since the Cambridge Analytica data-mining scandal in 2018, in which 50 million Facebook profiles were harvested  and user data exploited, security has been a hot topic. Over the past five years, most tech firms have been facing scrutiny about how they use and collect of private user data.

How can businesses protect staff?

For businesses using or sharing apps among colleagues, confidentiality is critical. While you’ll often be bound by third-party terms, apps might also be able to track your location and phone usage while closed.

Businesses should always seek advice and support to ensure that employees can use company apps safely. Occasionally, it might be necessary to consult professional tech lawyers after a suspected data breach that stems from application data misuse.

What type of mobile apps collect personal data?

The bottom line is that most apps will collect some of your personal data, regardless of their type or genre. A recent privacy study by Green Smartphones identified the apps that collect the most data about their users:

  • Social media and messaging

Collecting more information than any other type of app, social media platforms track multiple aspects of our mobile phone uses. Facebook, Messenger, Threads and Instagram all collect at least 14 different types of data, including messages, contacts, location, and health information.

  • Streaming services

Even though you might only need basic account details to use streaming apps, many still collect a large amount of data. Online video platform YouTube holds onto 11 types of personal data stored on your phone, including photos and videos, plus personal info.

  • Shopping apps

From Amazon Shopping to Vinted and SHEIN, your favourite shopping applications probably collect more personal data than you’d expect. The Amazon app can track your app and phone usage, plus information from other devices on your network.

  • Mobile games

Popular gaming applications also store user data. As an example, Monopoly Go! Can see your app activity, calendar, files and documents, plus analytical information from the way you use your phone. However, depending on permissions, it’s likely that every game on your phone has stored some type of personal information.

Overview: How to stay safe

Above all, remaining prudent and double-checking privacy policies remains the most effective way to keep yourself safe. We also recommend keeping secure, unique passwords for different online platforms, changing them every few months to stay extra safe.

Never give away more information than you’re comfortable with – and if you feel pressured, stop using the app completely.

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