Smartphone apps are incredibly useful. From mobile games and image editing to ordering pizza and streaming music, “There’s an app for that,” as they say! But along with all the benefits and convenience, these apps can come at a cost so beware when installing that new trending app! 🙂

A recent study found that three-quarters of smartphone apps have security vulnerabilities related to unsecured data storage. And some seemingly innocuous apps will actually collect and sell your personal data to advertisers and other third parties. 

So what can you do to take back control over your data? Here are 7 key tips to help you:

1. Download apps only from reputable sources.

For security reasons, it’s best to avoid third-party app stores. Ideally, you should stick with Google Play Store or Amazon Appstore for Android devices and Apple’s App Store for iOS devices. 

This isn’t a foolproof approach (the official app stores have still had their share of issues with privacy-invading apps), but it’s still a safer bet overall. If using any other platform, check its reputation and proceed with caution.

2. Research each app and read reviews.

If an app has known security or privacy issues, often that information is just a quick search away. One good source of information is app reviews. You can get an idea of issues other users have run into and decide what you’re willing to deal with. 

And a bonus tip for desktop users: investigate browser extensions before you download them! Some extensions will maliciously extract your personal data, so you’ll definitely want to avoid any that are suspicious.

3. Set up app permissions.

When installing an app on your phone, you may be asked to grant it certain permissions, like the ability to listen in on your microphone, access your camera, and read your files. Often these capabilities are required for the app to work as intended, but it’s good to think before you approve each request!

When in doubt, simply deny the permission and see what happens. If that particular feature is essential for the app’s functionality, you’ll find out soon enough – the app will let you know, and then you can choose to grant permission in the moment when it matters. 

The following are proven to be among the most risky permissions, from a privacy perspective:

  • Camera Access
  • Location Tracking
  • Audio Recording
  • Read SMS Messages
  • Read Phone Call Log

When these permissions come up, simply take a moment to think about what you’re willing to give up in exchange for the use of the app (and read the fine print). 

4. Review apps that you’ve already downloaded.

Keep in mind, you can always go back to change permissions for downloaded apps. (To review app permissions on Android, follow the instructions here, and for iOS devices, check out this page or simply navigate to Settings > Privacy.)

You might even have an app on your phone that you’ve completely forgotten about. If you won’t miss it, go ahead and declutter! You’ll enjoy a bit more disk space and have less to worry about when it comes to data privacy. 

5. Consider installing a security app.

While not strictly necessary, some users do get peace of mind from having a security app installed on their phone. Many of these apps, like Avast and McAfee, even offer free packages. The key is to make sure you only install a legitimate, reliable, and highly reviewed security app. 

A major benefit of these tools is that they can alert you if you’re about to install an app that’s known to be malicious, as well as warn you against “phishing” attacks in real time. 

6. Update your apps regularly.

It’s very important to keep up with app updates. Crucial security upgrades and bug fixes are some of the most common reasons that app developers roll out updates.

Tip: if you know you won’t be using your phone for the next half hour or so, go to your app store and navigate to the Updates section. There you’ll be able to update all of your apps with a single click. 

7. Read privacy policies – or at least skim them.

Let’s face it, most people don’t really read privacy policies. All that legalese can be daunting! But reading privacy policies is one of the best ways to find out how your collected data will be used. 

Key Takeaways

These seven steps are simple ways for you to take back control of your digital life, when it comes to owning and protecting your data. At LatticeWork, we believe in your fundamental right to privacy. That’s why we have designed our first consumer product, the Amber Smart Storage Platform to address the growing concern about third-party corporate use of personal data. It was designed with your privacy in mind, first and foremost. 

That’s why we only collect data with a specific purpose - integral to the functionality of the platform – and your data will never be sold or “mined” by third parties. To find out how and why we collect certain information, how long we store it, and the steps we take to protect your personal data, we encourage you to read our full privacy policy

Knowledge is power.

To learn more about what Amber is all about, check out our product page here and take a look at our Companion Apps that help power your digital life. ????????