ONE great thing about living in a thriving digital age is having a multitude of helpful and nifty apps do useful things for us at a flick of our fingers. However, though these apps might be free, it’s highly likely that they are monetizing app use through other means.
Tactical Tech’s Me and My Shadow Project describes how each time we use a digital service, we create a digital shadow – or the sum of all the data we managed to leave behind on that digital service. Valuable pieces of information, like your age, your interests, your purchasing habits and more can be packaged as a digital shadow and sold to third parties.
So how do you protect yourself when using an app?
To play on the safe side, always download your apps from either App Store (for iOS users) or Play Store (for Android users). Though not all apps from the official stores are 100% trustworthy, you’re still better off there because the apps here would have been vetted to meet at least the basic standards of data protection. Just make sure to read the reviews about the apps before downloading.
Some apps ask permission to access files and other functions on your smartphone which they might not necessarily need – for example, a calculator app doesn’t really need to access your camera, but it asks permission for it anyways.
Viral app FaceApp caused a stir recently, when it was found that all images taken using the app were stored on the cloud servers of Amazon or Google, rather than a user’s phone. This means that the photos could be passed onto third parties and leave users’ faces unprotected.
On the other hand, another viral app called Zepeto was rumored to be tracking users’ locations – even if the app itself never asked permission to access that. The moral of the story is to always be mindful of what you do or do not consent to with regards to mobile apps, and check the app or the company its from if you aren’t sure.
Even if it seems like a hassle to update your smartphone operating system, it’s a critical part of securing your data. Updates are there to protect your phone from bugs, patch up critical issues on your phone, and strengthen the code so it doesn’t become more vulnerable. When you update, be sure to double check app settings, since sometimes these may change as well.
There are also apps that take care to protect your digital shadows through encryption. Here’s a list of some of them which can be used as alternatives: https://myshadow.org/resources.
This article is part of the Banker’s Association of the Philippines’ (BAP) #CyberSafe campaign, where the BAP aims to promote awareness in cybersecurity. The campaign will upload new posts tackling common web security questions and issues, on Wednesdays and Sundays every week.
For more content on cybersecurity, visit the BAP Official YouTube channel.