Online privacy and security should not be taken lightly. The recent San Bernardino case showed that the FBI can indeed access any iPhone if necessary, which proved to be the ultimate step in privacy intrusion.
However, this was an extreme case for which many believe to be justified. What should worry everyday smartphone users are applications we all have installed on our phones.
A recent update to Uber’s official Android app suddenly changed its permissions policy and included a request to access the end user’s browsing history, bookmarks, and running apps.
This immediately sparked interest all over the Web in why a ridesharing app would need this kind of information. This update was live for about a week, until it was replaced by the currently available version (3.98.3), which revoked access to the previously mentioned files and information.
Apparently, the reason for this was simply a mistake made by an Uber engineer who believed that a third-party library within the app needed those permissions.
Even though this proved to be only a mistake, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Our apps are constantly watching us and they can obtain access to various kinds of personal information.
We have taken a look at some of the most popular applications to find out what kind of data mining they perform, as well as why these apps need that kind of information.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Google is tracking your every move. The company’s primary business is advertising, so it becomes more successful the more it knows about your interests.
Google is allowed to take your IP information, as well as phone number for device identification. It also tracks your every move, and you can even take a look at this by finding your Google Location History section in Google Maps.
Furthermore, Android devices can share the times and dates of your calls, as well as the “SMS routing” data.
You should really take a deeper look into your Google Account page, where you can see some of this data.
The core concept of this app is that when you send a Snapchat and after it’s been viewed – it is deleted forever. However, the company clearly states that it stores and collects your images as well as their metadata.
What is perhaps the most interesting is that Snapchat sees web pages you’ve previously visited before opening the app. The goal of this is to find out the top referrers.
One of the most popular dating apps collects your entire Facebook data in case you sign-up using your Facebook account. The app can collect everything from your name, email address, interests, likes, gender, education, relationship interests, photos, friends lists, and much more.
The app can also watch your Web browsing activity, since it seems to be interested if you’re using other dating apps and websites. Tinder is owned by The Match Group, which owns other dating sites like Match.com and OKCupid, so it might be interested in how you interact with these services.
Twitter also actively tracks your location, as well as anything that you favorite/heart.
Even though we listed just a couple of examples, most of the iOS and Android apps are very similar in their privacy policies. In many cases, this is used to protect apps and services from legal battles, but in many cases these policies are very vague.
One thing is sure – the amount of personal information these companies have can be very dangerous and we are definitely reaching a point in time when this might become a huge issue.