Tag Archives: privacy

Prevent Data Mining in Android Apps

By Tracey Dowdy

 At a time when sites like Facebook, Google, Amazon, and others are facing scrutiny for their data breaches as well as data mining, it comes as no surprise that over 1,000 Android apps have been doing more than a little harvesting of their own. Not only are they violating your privacy, they’re doing it behind your back, and without your consent.

Research has found that some apps – with no permissions enabled – actually piggyback off other apps you’ve given permission, even pulling data from your Wi-Fi connection. If you’ve ever seen ads in one app or your browser for an item you searched for in a completely different app, that’s data mining at work.  The good news is that Android Q is nearing release, and Google has promised it has security patches coming to correct the issue.

In the meantime, there are steps you can take to limit the amount of spying those apps can do.

Use common sense when giving apps permission to access data. Think about it – if it’s necessary for the app to have access to your location in order for it to function – e.g. Google Maps – then allow permission. On the other hand, do the developers over at Candy Crush need to know your location? Should they have access to your contacts or camera? Be especially mindful if an app asks for access to your microphone – last year it was discovered that the official La Liga league app used the microphone and GPS of user’s smartphones to surreptitiously identify venues broadcasting matches. But you can easily prevent this by denying an app permission to access unnecessary data in the first place.

Another simple way to limit access is to enable or disable app permissions one by one. When you install an app, disable permissions, then go back and turn on specific permissions individually.

  • Go to Settings
  • Select Apps or Application Manager
  • Choose the app that you want to change by selecting
  • Choose which permissions to turn on and off, for example, your microphone or camera.

You can also allow Google Play Protect, built into Android, to scan for potentially dangerous or invasive apps.

  • Go to Settings
  • Choose Security
  • Select Google Play Protect. A list will populate with all apps that have been scanned with any suspicious apps flagged as potentially dangerous.

Another smart option is to turn off Location Services, a prime target for trackers.

Go to Settings 

  • Tap Location
  • Select Google Location Settings
  • Toggle off for Location Reporting and Location History
  • You can also delete your location history
  • If you need your location enabled for a specific app, you can manually toggle it on then toggle off again when you’re done.

One final way to protect your privacy is by disabling location services in your photos.

  • Go to the Photos app.
  • Tap the menu and choose
  • Select Remove geo location.

Another way is to open the photo, tap the three stacked dots, select Info and choose No location. You can also go into a submenu below the map and click Remove Location.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

Snapchat Tips for Parents

By Tracey Dowdy

Teens and Snapchat go together like peanut butter and jelly, chips and salsa, bacon and eggs, wine and cheese, mmmm, cheese…. wait, where was I going with this? Oh yes, teens and Snapchat.

With roughly 110 million daily users, Snapchat has surpassed even Twitter’s popularity, particularly with teens.

So what is it? Simply put, Snapchat is a free video and photo sharing app. Users can choose to send a private chat that disappears after one viewing or post a series of photos to create a Snapchat story. Teens love it because it gives them the ability to capture a moment in time, whether it’s silly, hilarious or awkward. Because snaps only last up to 10 seconds, there’s more freedom than with other forms of social media like Facebook and Instagram.

However, it’s not quite as user-friendly as Twitter or Facebook and the challenges inadvertently filter out the less tech savvy, like parents. Since adults are all over Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Snapchat is a place for our kids to virtually hang out without us and, just as with any other online activity, that is a plus or a minus depending on what your kids are up to.

Snapchat knows the risks involved and addresses them in their Terms of Use. They outline who can use Snapchat, what rights you have and what rights you grant them. There’s content and privacy guidelines mapped out as well as restrictions for copyrighted images, plus much more. There’s a fair amount of information and some is standard across social media platforms but it’s definitely worth the time to read through.

For example, users allow Snapchat access to their address book. It’s not uncommon for apps to request access to your private information but keep in mind that not everything you share is yours – you’re also sharing your friends’ information.

Snapchat also has the right to access your photos and videos. By agreeing to these “Terms of Use” users consent to “grant Snapchat and our business partners the unrestricted, worldwide, perpetual right and license to use your name, likeness, and voice solely in Live, Local, or other crowd-sourced content that you appear in, create, upload, post, or send.”

It’s also important to note that users are legally responsible for what happens while they’re logged on. That means underage teens exchanging nude pics are risking charges ranging from misdemeanors to felonies and potentially being registered as sex offenders. Twenty states have laws specifically related to sexting. Teens need to remember that those kind of photos might not be as temporary or as private as they think.

Back in 2015, 18-year-old high school student Brandon Berlin was arrested for uploading nude and semi-nude photos of underage girls to Dropbox and sharing the images with friends. Most of the photos had been sent via Snapchat by the victims to their boyfriends who then forwarded them to Berlin. “This has to be a teachable moment for us with our kids. They have to understand that once you share something, even with just one person, once you share something online, electronically, you can’t get it back and you lose complete control over where it goes.” – Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman

Berlin’s senior quote in the yearbook? “I prolly had your pics.”

I must reiterate sexting isn’t the only or even the primary use of Snapchat. The intimacy that allows some to sext is valued by others for the simple reason there’s a lot less pressure. In the words of teenager Andrew Watts, “Snapchat has a lot less social pressure attached to it… If I don’t get any likes on my Instagram photo or Facebook post within fifteen minutes you can sure bet I’ll delete it.”

Snapchat’s popularity with teens is easily linked to the cliché “A picture is worth a thousand words.” It’s easy to misinterpret the meaning behind a text, but a picture and caption or a 10 second video makes your meaning clear.

For more insight and tips on helping your kids understand the risks, Verizon has a great article by Larry Magid, “What Parents Need to Know about Snapchat”.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Time to Take the Facebook Privacy Checkup

Over the years, Facebook has taken some well-deserved heat for making its privacy settings overly complicated, but that all changed in December 2012 with the introduction of Privacy Shortcuts. Accessible from the little lock icon at the top right-hand corner of any page, the Privacy Shortcuts allow Facebook users to perform a quick check-up of their privacy settings, and also act as a constant reminder of the privacy issues that are most important. Here’s how they work:

Privacy Shortcuts are divided into three distinct areas: Who can see my stuff? Who can contact me? and How do I stop someone from bothering me?

Who can see my stuff?

This, of course, is the most important question for any Facebook user concerned about his or her privacy. The Shortcut explains how you can control who can see your future posts by adjusting the settings at the time you post, but it also guides you to two of the most powerful – and underutilized – tools on Facebook: the Activity Log and View As.

The Activity Log is basically an archive of everything that you have ever posted on Facebook, or anything others have posted about you. You can review by category – Posts, Photos, Likes, Comments, etc. – or by timeline, all the way back to the time you joined Facebook. You get the chance to delete or hide old posts and photos, and even ask others to delete photos that you’ve been tagged in. (Keep in mind that you can only delete old posts and photos from your own timeline. These posts and photos can still appear elsewhere on Facebook.)

View As allows you to see what your timeline looks like to the public or to a specific friend. (Again, even if you hide something on your timeline, it could still appear in your news feed or elsewhere on Facebook. If you don’t want someone to see a certain post or photo, don’t post it on Facebook!)

Who can contact me?

This Privacy Shortcut allows you to control who can send you friend requests and whose messages you see. The new Message Filters are Facebook’s attempt to make its messaging system more useful by filtering out unwanted messages or spam. Users have a choice of Basic or Strict Filtering, with unwanted messages ending up in an Other folder as opposed to the regular Inbox.

How do I stop someone from bothering me?

Here, Facebook provides a shortcut for blocking someone, as well as a way to view users you have previously blocked. Other Privacy Shortcuts allow you to adjust who can look you up using the email address or phone number you provide to Facebook, and whether various third party search engines can link to your timeline.

Taken together these new tools provide Facebook users with an excellent way to perform a quick privacy check-up, while acting as a reminder of what’s important as we all continue to expand our online presence.

Protect Your Privacy: Check Those Facebook Apps

Although we may feel that we are on top of our Facebook privacy settings, there are a few areas that we rarely bother to review. One of those areas concerns all the third-party games and other apps that we have picked up – sometimes unwittingly – during our time as a Facebook member.

In many cases, we have given these apps permission to access our most personal data, whether or not we are still using the app or even know that it’s there. Depending on our friends’ privacy settings, those apps might also be “scraping” their personal data, resulting in spam, unwanted advertising, and even phishing attacks.

But first, how do we even find out which apps we have on our Facebook account? The best place to start is with our Privacy Settings, where we can also make the necessary adjustments.

  • Click on the arrow in the top right-hand corner of your home page, and then click on Settings.
  • Scroll down the left-hand side of the General Account Settings page and click on Apps.
  • The first item on this page will be a summary of all the Apps you use. These are all the apps that you have allowed to interact with your Facebook account. By clicking on the Edit button to the right of each app, you can see exactly what the app is allowed to do. Many Facebook users will be surprised to see the number of apps that they have acquired over the years, and the amount of personal information that each app is allowed to collect.
  • If you are no longer using the app, or you are unhappy with what the app can access, then you can click on the ‘x’ to the right of the app to remove the app completely. As Facebook will tell you in a new window, removing the app from Facebook      will only prevent the app from collecting additional data in the future. The app will still have the data it has already collected.

apps-others-use

The Apps page also allows you to control how much of your information is accessible through the activities of your friends. If you click the Edit button to the right of Apps others use, you will get a window with a 17 different information categories, including everything from your photos and videos to your relationships and religious and political views. (See panel above.) Again, we recommend that only your basic information is made available to these third-party apps and web sites.