TechTrends: Beware! Your smartphone apps are watching you…

I think mobile apps are the best thing since sliced bread.  They make life so much easier by offering convenient ways to get organized, take great photos, manage your finances, or just kill some time playing games.  But they can also be sneaky little thieves, collecting your personal information without your knowledge and using it for who-knows-what.

There have been several high-profile cases of apps that were collecting personal data, and just this year a class-action lawsuit was filed against 18 companies including Facebook, Foursquare, and Yelp alleging negligence on their part for failing to notify users of collected information.  So what can you do to stay informed about where your data goes?  Fortunately, there’s an app for that!

Clueful is a security app that doesn’t want you to get caught out there.  Developed by anti-virus software maker BitDefender, the app will tell you what your other apps are up to.  If your contacts list has been used, if your location information was collected, or even if an app is causing a drain on your battery, Clueful ‘clues’ you in.  But it’s not just the bearer of bad news – Clueful also lets you know when your apps do something good, like encrypting your data.

Clueful does have a couple of drawbacks though.  First, it only currently works on free apps so anything you’ve paid to download won’t be scanned.  And at $4, it is relatively expensive.  Reviews from Wired and PC Magazine have been mixed.

But by all accounts, this is a much needed start to providing some kind of privacy protection for app users.  If you don’t want to shell out the dough, just be very careful about what you download.  Only download apps from trusted sources, and even though none of us do it, it’s worth reading that disclaimer that you usually just scroll through before you click ‘Accept and Install App’.  Check and double-check all of your privacy settings and just remember that what’s done usually can’t be undone.  Once your personal information is out there, you can’t get it back.

 

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