You can never be too sure about apps these days. You might think you’re just using them to communicate or play games, but they actually turn out to be gathering your personal data.
A new study released by the nonprofit organization Norwegian Consumer Council found that many popular apps were selling info as sensitive as location, sexual orientation, and IP addresses to advertisers, violating the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation law and fundamental rights and freedoms.
According to the study, both Tinder and Grindr sent GPS coordinates and gender preferences to advertisers, risking their users’ privacy. “The dating app Grindr shared detailed user data with a large number of third parties that are involved in advertising and profiling. This data included IP address, Advertising ID, GPS location, age, and gender,” the study noted.
Nosy photo editing apps know your location. Perfect365 is a popular app for those who want to look their best for the ‘gram. But it doesn’t value its users’ safety—it sold people’s GPS coordinates, Wi-Fi access points, and advertising identification without them even knowing. “The makeup app Perfect365 shared user data with more than 70 third parties. This data included the Advertising ID, IP address, and GPS location. Many of the third parties that were receiving this data are in the business of collecting, using and selling location data for various commercial purposes,” the council warned.
Kids are vulnerable to inappropriate ads. Sketchy children’s entertainment is one of the greatest fears of many parents in the digital age—for a good reason. The app My Talking Tom 2, where users can care for a virtual pet cat that repeats words they speak into the mic, was found to have shared people’s IP address and location to third parties. “When using the app, in-app advertising pops up periodically regardless of the age of the user,” the nonprofit added.
Despite all these security threats online, taking out the plug and avoiding exposure to apps aren’t fully feasible. The best that you can do is to stay vigilant and take the necessary steps to protect yourself against nosy third parties.
You should take note of the permissions the app asks for during installation and determine if these are within reason. For instance, if a photo-editing tool requests to access your location, then think twice about using this app. More importantly, make sure to research the app developer so you can check their commitment to their users’ privacy and the extra steps they take to respect and protect their data.
For a digital experience that’s guaranteed to be safe, use apps that are committed to security and privacy like Viber. Every chat here is encrypted end-to-end, meaning that it’s virtually impossible for anyone, even Viber itself, to read or even listen to your exchanges with people. This also means that the app cannot sell your conversational data to third parties and advertisers.
Unlike the platforms singled out by the Norwegian Consumer Council, Viber proves that it’s possible to provide quality services without compromising and exploiting user privacy.