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Smartphones: Does your privacy matter?

“Oh dear!”, you might say now. “Another one telling me that my data is not secure.”

Wait a second! I don’t want to be a spoilsport. There are so many fantastic and useful apps out there. I know and I use many of them: gaming apps to have some fun. Restaurant finder apps to help me find a place offering great food. And so on and so forth.

Is it wrong or bad to use them? No, of course not. But many of those apps collect sensitive data in order to offer a great service to you. And as long as the app provider deals with your data in a fair and appropriate way, everything is fine. Personally, I am even fine when companies use my data to show me useful ads instead of the useless ones I get most of the time. But what about those companies which are using my data in an inappropriate way? Is this something I have control over? Unfortunately, this is not the case. Once you have installed an app on your phone and once you have granted this app the permission to access your data, you very often agree (who really reads the terms and conditions before installing an app?) that this app has access to most of the data on your phone.

“But who really cares? And I trust the big well known companies!”, you might say now. That’s a fair point. But very often you allow even those well-known companies not only to collect and use your data but to sell or give your data to other companies as well – and nobody knows to who else will get your data and what kind of ethical rules these third party companies follow. Furthermore, in rare cases data gets hacked or is lost unwittingly. I am not saying that we shouldn’t use those great services many companies offer “for free”. But we should make conscious decisions to use them and we should be aware about what kind of private and very often sensitive data we share with others.

Let’s make a short experiment

You are an iPhone user? Here we go:

  1. Open your iPhone “Settings”
  2. Tap on “Privacy”
  3. Search for “Location Services”
    – Are they switched off? You are done
    – Are they switched on? Then tap on “Location Services”
  4. You see a list of apps. The more often you see a “never” the better it is. But now scroll down, please, and tap on “System Services”
  5. Search for “Frequent Locations”
    – Is this function switched off? You are done
    – Is this function switched on? Then tap on “Frequent Locations”
  6. Here we go! You see a list of your whereabouts of the last six weeks including a lot of detailed information like the time you spent at each location!

Android is your OS of choice? Then try this:

  1. Open up your “Settings”
  2. Tap on “Location”
    – Is it switched off? You are done
    – Is it switched on? Then scroll down.
  3. You’ll see a list of “Recent location requests” below the switch. The shorter the list, the better – as you can imagine.
  4. At the bottom of the screen you should see “Location Services” with the app “Google Location History”. Tap on it, if you dare!
  5. You will be forwarded to the Google Location History app
    – Is it turned off? You are done.
    – Is it turned on? Then scroll down.
  6. As with the iOS version you should now see a list of your recent whereabouts.

It’s up to you

There are many of those functions on your phone. Do you really know who has access to this data? Do you really know what those companies having access to this data are doing with it? Do you care? If yes, then let’s make at least a small step towards having a little bit more privacy on your mobile:

  1. Switch “Frequent Locations” / “Location” off
  2. Go back to “Location Services” (iPhone) or “Location” (Android) and walk through the list of apps listed there. Check for each and every app if this app needs access to your location and if yes make a conscious decision when this app should have access to your location data or not. Please keep in mind, that some of the apps won’t function without this service turned on though.

So, what about you? Did you know about those options? And if you didn’t – are you shocked about the sheer amount of apps that want access to your location data? Let us know in the comments!

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Avira, a company with over 100 million customers and more than 500 employees, is a worldwide leading supplier of self-developed security solutions for professional and private use. With more than 25 years of experience, the company is a pioneer in its field.