It’s no surprise that mobile usage is at an all-time high these days. Since 90% of the mobile time by users in the US is in apps (1) it’s interesting to look at mobile privacy and how much our apps know about us.
On average, smartphone users today have between 60 and 90 apps installed on their devices (2). Every time you download an app there are terms and conditions that you have to accept. Since 90% of consumers accept legal terms and conditions without reading them (3) you may not even be aware of the information that a certain app could have access to when you click accept. It’s not just our name and email address they want to know. Some apps request risky permissions such as your exact location, access to your camera/microphone, or to your SMS messages and phone call logs (2). Basically, apps want private information on a user.
But how much personal information are our apps gathering on us? Symantec tested the top 100 free Android and iOS apps to see what kind of information they may have gathered on users and the statistics are alarmingly invasive. 45% of Android apps and 25% of iOS apps track your location, 46% of Android apps and 25% of iOS apps have access to your camera, 25% of Android apps and 9% of iOS apps record audio, 10% of Android apps read your phone logs and 15 % of Android apps can read your SMS messages (this information was not available on iOS).
This doesn’t necessarily mean that every app is out to get you. Some apps, like Instagram for example would need permission to your camera so that you can post a picture. Typically, an app is looking for your personal information so that it can make your life easier. If you’re using a ride share app it’s going to need to know your exact location so that it can pick you up. It’s our jobs as consumers to look at what exactly an app is asking permission for and determine if that information is necessary for the app to do its job.