Protect your family with four steps to managing apps
- Hilary Bird, Guest blogger
Here on the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) portal, we're always pleased to hear from different stakeholders on how they contribute to a better and safer internet for children and young people in their own areas of work and activities. We were recently contacted by Hilary Bird, a freelance writer, who writes about relationships and tech, and how they impact on each other. Here, she offers some top tips for managing apps on your smartphone.
If you're like most smartphone users, you don't use your phone to call. Instead, you use it to text and connect with the wider world through apps like Gmail and Facebook.
In fact, since mobile usage officially surpassed desktop usage for the first time in 2016, there's a good chance you're reading this article on your phone using the app version of your favorite web browser. Apps are convenient, fast, and fun—but how much do you know about them, really? And, more importantly, how much do your apps know about you?
The internet era poses nearly non-stop threats to your security and privacy and, unfortunately, those threats don't diminish when you're on your phone instead of your laptop. If you use the wrong apps, the danger might actually increase instead of decrease.
Before you download another app, read on to learn what steps to take to ensure your mobile apps help rather than hurt you.
1. Beware of third-party apps
Third-party apps are created by parties other than your operating system's manufacturer. For instance, your iPhone has a flashlight app created by Apple, but you can download feature-laden third-party flashlight apps from the Apple App Store.
However, according to a study reported on by Scientific American, over 70 per cent of apps report on your behavior to sources like Google Analytics or Facebook, which use that data for their own targeted marketing purposes. And third-party apps like Facebook and Messenger collect your information on their own, too.
The easiest way to keep third-party apps from accessing your personal information is (obviously) not to download them. If you don't absolutely need Facebook on your phone, delete it. And unless you desperately need to order your latte early, delete that coffee shop app, too.
If you don't want to give up the fun and convenience of apps, thoroughly research any app you want to download. Even flashlight apps could be sharing your information with other interested parties, or contain security vulnerabilities that make them easy targets for hackers.
2. Restrict your apps' access
Many apps access your personal information because, perhaps without knowing it, you allow them to. Stay safer online by figuring out which apps are accessing information like your location, age, and relationship status, and disable their access.
Use the following steps to disable certain apps' access to your information:
- Open your settings and press either "applications" or "application manager."
- Scroll to the app with permissions you want to change.
- Click "permissions," then toggle the switch left to deny permission or right to give permission.
- Open your settings, select your name at the top of the screen, and choose "iTunes & app store."
- Click "view Apple ID" and log in.
- Find the "permissions" section, which shows you which apps you've granted permission to. Don't see a permission section? You haven't granted access to any third-party apps!
- If you do see the permission section, swipe left and press "delete" on any third-party apps with access you want to revoke.
3. Read the fine print
We all agree that terms and conditions are excruciatingly painful and nearly impossible to read. But if you want to know who your app's developer is selling your information to, you have to dive into and decipher that massive wall of legalese.
This is an especially important step if the app is free, because if you don't have to pay for the app, your information is the app's product, not the other way around. Apps like Facebook make money from targeted advertising that comes from curating and disseminating your information, but you'll only find that out if you read the privacy agreement.
4. Follow up with your teens
After you take the three steps above on your own phone, protect the rest of your family by reading this blog with your smartphone-using teen! Chances are your teen downloads more apps than you, including some that they shouldn't trust.
Have a candid conversation about why they should or shouldn't download certain apps, even social media favorites. Remember, setting some ground rules and being careful about your apps can go a long way towards keeping your family's information out of others' hands.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Better Internet for Kids Portal, European Schoolnet, the European Commission or any related organisations or parties.
About the author of this article:
Hilary Bird is a digital journalist who writes about the things that fascinate her the most: relationships, technology, and how they impact each other. As more and more people become more and more reliant on their tech devices, Hilary wants to help them stay safe and understand how these devices will reshape the way we communicate.
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