Your Apps Are Watching You 24/7

Test Results of a Privacy Audit

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by  Margaret Ross

I paid too much for my phone and I’ve installed too many apps. I have an iPhone even though the marketplace offers phones that cost much less. I tell myself that iPhone delivers extra privacy. I assumed privacy automatically means more security. Right? Hmmm. Sometimes.

 After all, didn’t Apple’s first quarter marketing campaign claim and proclaim, “Privacy, That’s iPhone.”? Their impressively calming claim carries less weight after I ran a test by visiting some popular apps with a spyware and tracker blocker running. Each APP tested had been downloaded from the APP Store. The Apps included Twitter, WhatsApp (owned by Facebook) Amazon (owned by Amazon) and the Chrome browser (owned by Google - Alphabet Inc.).

 For the audit, I selected the Premium Level and “Free Trial” of “Disconnect”, a robust application made in the USA from the App Store. After three false starts and two emails to support, the App was working.

AUDIT RESULTS REPORT

Privacy Audit iPhone Results
  • In a period of just a few minutes, I visited the Twitter, What’s App, Amazon and Chrome Browser Apps
  • The Apps had attempted to track and report back on me to their owners and code developers 162 times in just a few minutes. They did not offer me a way to opt out of all their spy games.
  • By blocking those 162-privacy invasion attempts the report says I regained 17.3 mb of data and saved 29 seconds of load time.
  • The apps continued to attempt to track me multiple times a minute even when I was neither using an App nor my phone. That was a little creepy.

One big question is, “Are we totally powerless?” Not totally. We can consider putting a reliable software sentry on our phones and other devices. A sentry like I used for this test. Multiple choices are available.
If the digital sentry step is too big for you today, I suggest trying a few baby steps on your Apps that can raise the level of difficulty for the personal data bandits.

Four Baby Steps with WhatsApp:

How to protect Privacy WhatsApp
  • Slide the Microphone Option to Off in the app’s Settings
  • Slide the Location Option to Off in the app’s Settings.
  • Slide the Camera or Photos Option to Off in the app’s Settings
  • Tell the app’s owner “No” on notifications when the app asks. You can avoid between 40 and 80 daily interruptions by opting out of notifications.

Q. What If I Need That Function Later?

A. Simply, slide the option button back to the right to re-enable it.

Our Big Picture

 The larger personal data theft and personal data selling issues won’t be solved by pausing an app’s location-tracking, voice and camera capturing, but it is one simple thing we can control.

Apple Should and the Big Tech Industry Could Do Much Better

 “The biggest problem is not that data is being collected it is that we are not clearly notified before it happens in an app, when it is happening, states WSJ columnist Joanna Stern, “Nor are we given an easy and permanent way to “Opt-Out” of allowing the app to gather and share our information,” she continues. “Most apps are littered with secret trackers slurping up your personal data and sending it to more places than you count.” Ms. Stern
recently tested 80 apps and found that they were sharing “reams of her personal data.”

We don’t want Apple Inc. and the Big Tech Industry to force us to “Opt-Out” of their spy games. Going forward all these bad behaviors such as data grabs and hidden data transfers should automatically be grounds for App Store banishment. We don’t want Apple Inc. and the technology industry to ignore their responsibility to scan each app’s code for evil intent and privacy invading sloppiness before allowing its passage into their stores, onto our phones and into our lives.


 Margaret S Ross Author
 Margaret Ross
Margaret Ross is a business and technology author, consultant, CEO of the Visible Strategies Agency and the Founder of the Kamaron Institute. @kamaron_org Visible Strategies Request Consultation

 

 

 

 

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