Staying private in today’s digital world is almost impossible unless you completely unplug and move to a cabin in the mountains. Obviously, the vast majority of us aren’t going to do that.
This begs the question: how do we remain as private as possible while still enjoying all the benefits that our digital connectivity brings us? The first step is ridding ourselves of smartphone apps that most expose our personal information to companies that shouldn’t have it in the first place.
In this article, we’ll expose the four worst apps for privacy that you need to dump sooner rather than later.
Let’s take a look.
The Behemoth Called Facebook
This is a tough one for sure. Even though Facebook’s user growth in America seems to have peaked, 68% of Americans still use the service. Most may not know the sensitive data they are constantly transmitting to the social media giant.
To use the app, you have to agree to nearly every permission in existence. These include, but aren’t limited to:
- Internal phone storage
- Wi-fi connection you’re using
- Camera and microphone
- Call logs
- Text messages
Basically, to use Facebook you have to allow them into every aspect of your physical and digital life. Is it really worth sacrificing everything just to see what your ex might be up to this weekend?
Only you can answer that question. Just remember that earlier in 2019, Facebook had a large-scale user data breach through a third-party company that exposed the personal information of over 540 million of their users. One of them could easily have been you.
Maybe it’s time to finally unplug.
Then There’s Facebook Messenger
As bad as the Facebook app is for privacy, Facebook Messenger might be even worse.
Did you know that Messenger doesn’t employ end-to-end encryption for messages shared on the platform? That poses a huge problem. Without end-to-end encryption, your private messages get stored on the service as plain text. This means that any Facebook employee with simple login credentials can read any message you’ve sent or received.
Beyond that troubling factoid, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has openly admitted that Messenger auto-scans all images and links you direct message to your friends. If the Facebook algorithm thinks they are fake news, inappropriate or suspicious for any reason they’ll block your messages or even report them to authorities.
While this may serve some purpose in keeping the general public a bit safer, you simply cannot trust Facebook to use their user data for the public good. Remember, Facebook has:
- Had data breaches on multiple occasions
- Values growth over privacy
- Stored your logins in plain text
- Requested email passwords from users to spam contacts
- Logged phone calls and text messages without letting users know they were doing it
It’s time to look for a new, and encrypted, messaging app for your phone.
Words with Friends
Playing “Words” might seems like a great way to enjoy time with family and friends while playing Scrabble remotely. However, Words (and other games like it) collect personal data from you on an obscene scale.
When you’re ready to play Words, you’ll need to turn over to them:
- Your first and last name
- Date of birth and age
- Your email address
- All contacts from your contact list
- Info on purchases made in-game
- Anything you post in the message boards
- Your Facebook ID
- Physical location
- Any public info they can get their hands on
They also employ beacons, cookies, clear gifs, pixel tags and device identifiers in order to track:
- The mobile device or computer you’re using
- Your IP address
- Type of browser and language used
- MAC addresses
Are you willing to give up all of this information in order to play online Scrabble?
While it’s true that many game developers track the data of their players and sell it off, the hope is that the data is not so personalized. In the case of Zynga’s Words with Friends, it seems a bit too much so.
4. Weather Apps
The weather app you just downloaded requests your location access. These seem reasonable, right? After all, it can’t give you local weather without knowing where in the world you are.
However, after you give permission the app will start to track your location all day every day. And what does it do with this information? It sells the data to advertisers of course.
Offending weather apps include:
- The Weather Channel app
- Many more
Beyond that, it’s not just weather apps that are doing this. It can be any app that requests access to your location like news apps, local event apps, local restaurant apps etc. Your best practice is to click “deny” whenever an app requests access to your location and use your virtual private network.
Weather apps and other location-based apps track and sell data about your daily commute, where you’re working, what gym you like to go to, who your physician is and so much more about you. Do you really want any company to know all of those personal things about you? Let alone sell that information to the highest bidder?
We hope you’ve enjoyed this list of apps to avoid if you value your personal privacy. It’s important for us to let you know what’s happening to your data when you choose to use some (or all) of these apps.
Do you have other examples of the worst apps for privacy, or experience with personal data breaches? Let us know in the comments below. Or just let us know what you think about what these companies are doing to make a buck.
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This article is written by our guest author, Bram Jansen.