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.

 

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