Tame your apps

Many mobile apps are designed to steal your personal data

There are unfortunately a lot of applications for mobile devices which do a lot more than is written on their 'features' page. You might have noticed on Android devices, you are shown a list of the permissions that the app is asking for when installing. On iPhone, permission is sought when the app first asks for use of a certain function. You might also have asked yourself why an application is getting permissions to your location, contacts, emails, SMS / MMS etc.

Some mobile applications have been designed to specifically gather user data to then sell on to third parties. This is a major problem and an obvious invasion of privacy. Companies often provide apps to access their services even when their standard web site is perfectly satisfactory. They do this in the main because putting an app on your device bypasses the majority of privacy controls placed on them by your web browser. If you are happy with a company's web site, then don't install their app.

If you have not already done so, check the permissions that have been given to applications on your telephone / tablet.

Apple iOS

On Apple iOS it is possible to change the permissions of each application. Simple go into 'Settings' and then choose 'Privacy'. Inside are permission settings for each type of service or data access on your phone. Simply turn off the permissions which you don't think, or prefer, an application should not have.

Apple has more information on this if you need it.

Android

Unfortunately Google's Android operating system does not currently have the ability to turn on and off permissions, as is the case with iOS. In fact Google recently withdrew a feature which specifically added this possibility...

There are some applications in the PlayStore that may help in blocking certain access, SnoopWall being one. The rule on Android however should be to simply delete an application if you are unhappy with its permissions. The application F-Secure App Permissions should help with viewing app permissions if you need it.

Windows Phone

WP has limited ability to turn off application permissions. You can try, according to Microsoft's web site, "For example, to turn off location awareness for Search, go to Settings, flick to Applications, tap Search, and then turn off Use my location."

To see an application's permissions go to the 'Store' and search for the app. Then check out the 'Details' section for the app which will explain what permissions are given.

Again, as for Android, the rule is delete an app whose permissions you are not happy with.

 

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