Tag Archives: PrivacyGrade

App is friend, not foe

In a world where the smartphone is increasingly becoming the lifeline and constant companion or assistant to basically everyone on this planet, privacy has moved up in the concerns list. And if you’ve been paying attention to the whole data farming debate that’s sparked controversy about everyone from identity thieves to Apple to the federal government, there’s a chance you might be a little freaked out.

Your smartphone is brain sucking. Graphic from Life Hacker
Your smartphone is brain sucking. Graphic from Life Hacker

Nearly every app you download these days asks for access to some of your information, whether it be for contacts, location, or to connect to your Facebook. Regardless of what you download, it’s probably able to access some basic information off of your phone the second the code intermingles with your device. This isn’t necessarily the end of the world or of your privacy since the fact is there’s a only a small chance that the bad guys are going to target little ol’ you.

Still, it can be kind of creepy to know someone out there could potentially have access to information you didn’t explicitly entitle them to.

Luckily, this demand is sparking some supply from developers.

While very few app developers have seen any negative feedback from consumers about the coding which would allow for data harvesting off devices, the occasional outcries have inspired at least one site to post ratings on those apps. The site is called PrivacyGrade and allows the consumer to search for a particular app and few a rating based on the privacy expected from the app versus the actual level of information the app requires.

Security from seemingly harmless apps have come into more focus thanks to such scandals as the flashlight app. Something as small as a flashlight app, it turns out, can ask for a shocking amount of user data when you download it, tapping everything from your calendar to your phone’s location engine — even asking access to your camera.

While almost all of the information that is being harvested by these sort of apps are by legitimate businesses to be sold to advertising companies, this still seems invasive.

Currently, the site is only targeted for Android apps (because, be honest, most Apple users don’t care — we know what you do, Apple!). But in time it, or similar sites, should reach out to all mobile apps.