Information Technology Services

Mobile Devices and your Privacy

Apps on your mobile device and what you should know

What types of data can apps access?
When you sign up with an app store or download individual apps, you may be asked for permission to let them access information on your device. Some apps may be able to access:

  • your phone and email contacts
  • call logs
  • internet data
  • calendar data
  • data about the device’s location
  • the device’s unique IDs
  • information about how you use the app itself

Who is accessing your data and what is done with your data?
Some apps access only the data they need to function; others access data that’s not related to the purpose of the app. If you’re providing information when you’re using the device, someone may be collecting it – whether it’s the app developer, the app store, an advertiser, or an ad network. And if they’re collecting your data, they may share it with other companies.

How can I tell what information an app will access or share?
It’s not always easy to know what data a specific app will access, or how it will be used. Before you download an app, consider what you know about who created it and what it does. The app stores may include information about the company that developed the app, if the developer provides it. If the developer doesn’t provide contact information – like a website or an email address – the app may be less than trustworthy. If you’re using an Android operating system, you will have an opportunity to read the “permissions” just before you install an app. Read them. It’s useful information that tells you what information the app will access on your device. Ask yourself whether the permissions make sense given the purpose of the app; for example, there’s no reason for an e-book or “wallpaper” app to read your text messages.

Why do some apps collect location data?
Some apps use specific location data to give you maps, coupons for nearby stores, or information about who you might know nearby. Some provide location data to ad networks, which may combine it with other information in their databases to target ads based on your interests and your location. Once an app has your permission to access your location data, it can do so until you change the settings on your phone. If you don’t want to share your location with advertising networks, you can turn off location services in your phone’s settings. But if you do that, apps won’t be able to give you information based on your location unless you enter it yourself. Your phone uses general data about its location so your phone carrier can efficiently route calls. Even if you turn off location services in your phone’s settings, it may not be possible to completely stop it from broadcasting your location data.

To test your privacy knowledge, take a privacy quiz: myprivacyiq.com

For more information on your right to privacy online, visit Zero Knowledge: zeroknowledgeprivacy.org

produced by: onguardonline.gov, for more information, please visit: www.onguardonline.gov

ITS is committed to helping you. If you have any questions, need help or advice, please let us know.

~ITS Help Desk