GEEKNOTE: Mobile Privacy

GEEKNOTE:  For quite a few years, I used simple flip phones with only minimal intelligence.  I used a Windows phone for a while, but never used any of the features beyond basic phone calls.  This past summer, I finally upgraded to an iPhone.  The iPhone and the popular Android phones have thousands of applications, or apps, designed to run on them.  Quite a few of the apps are available at no charge, but that does not necessarily mean that they are free.

I suspect most of us have gotten into the bad habit of just clicking "accept" rather than actually reading the license agreement that comes along with new software we put on our computers or our smart phones.  It is probably time that we START looking a little closer.

Some seemingly simply apps, like a flashlight app that turns on the phone's flash, may be reporting information about you, such as your location and other things about your phone usage.  It is worth checking the permissions that each app you have on your phone are entitled to.  

Much the same thing is true of regular computer programs as well.  When you get a "free" program on the Internet, it often comes with other programs that, at best, report to someone where you are going and who you are communicating with.

Ever wonder how how Google decides what ads to send you when you are reading mail in your "free" gmail account?  Yep, they scan the content of your messages.

"Free" toolbars that you can install in Internet Explorer and Firefox also often serve up popup advertisements.  With the popularity of toolbars among advertisers, it shouldn't be surprising that a computer can quickly wind up with six or eight separate toolbars, all popping up ads on your screen.  

The key takeaway from all of this is to remember "If you aren't the customer, you are the product."  There are ALWAYS strings attached to free stuff you download onto your computer or your phone and quite often what you are paying for this stuff is part of your privacy.

If you see an interesting program or app, think twice before you download it and DEFINITELY read the license agreement instead of just blindly accepting it.

Rob Marlowe
Senior Geek
Gulfcoast Networking

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.


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