Follow these 5 steps to stop apps from collecting your data now

Businesses are desperate for your data. You should avoid giving it to them if possible, as they could lose it to criminals in a data breach or sell it to the highest bidder.

It should be easy to see what types of information companies collect by reading the app’s privacy policy. Unfortunately, the reality is not so simple. “I’m very hesitant to tell consumers to read the privacy policy,” noted Jen Caltrider, project lead for Mozilla’s Privacy Not Included(Opens in a new window) team. they are stunning. People who don’t read them for a living don’t really stand a chance.” You can watch our conversation about maintaining privacy when using mobile apps here(Opens in a new window).

Caltrider and her team recently published a fact check report(Opens in a new window) examining the Google-mandated privacy labels(Opens in a new window) of the top 20 free and paid Android apps. As PCMag’s Rob Pegoraro noted in his article on the report, 10 of the top 20 paid apps received poor ratings, meaning Mozilla’s researchers found significant differences between the self-reported data collection practices on the security label and the collection practices reported by the developer in its privacy policy .

This means that the data security label information reported to Google may not match the information in the privacy policy. How can you trust any of these self-reported data collection statements to be accurate? You can not. Instead, it’s up to you, the consumer, to protect yourself by viewing the data collection permissions the app is requesting from your device and determining if you’re comfortable giving up that information.

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How to bypass data collection

I asked Caltrider to tell me how to spot the most data hungry apps. I’ve organized their methods into a list of tasks to do before downloading new apps.

This list might seem like a chore, and it is! You shouldn’t have to do this to stop companies from taking and selling your personal information or using it for their own purposes. Whether through effective federal law or independent oversight, companies should be held accountable for failing to accurately disclose their data collection practices. Until then, here are Jen Caltrider’s methods for dodging app data collection efforts:

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Read the data collection policy. Each privacy policy has a section that states what types of data the app collects. Most privacy policies also include details of the company’s policy regarding disclosure of information to third parties. Beware of apps that collect a lot of personal information from you and are unclear about how they use your data. Avoid apps that don’t let you opt out of sharing data with third parties.

Search for keywords. Open the privacy policy document in a browser and use Ctrl-F to open a search window. Search the document for keywords related to how your data is collected and used. I suggest starting your search with the words sell, sell, and collect.

Check privacy details before downloading new apps. Android users should open the app’s page in the Google Play Store and expand the section called About this app. Tap the App Permissions link to see a detailed view of the app’s data collection methods.

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For iOS users, you can examine what data an app collects before it gets to your device. When viewing the app’s page in the App Store, scroll down to the “App Privacy” section and tap the “Data linked to you” and “Data not linked to you” sections.

Check your phone’s permissions for installed apps. Check your phone’s app permissions every month to see if some apps are collecting excessive amounts of data. Android users should access their device’s permissions manager. Access the Settings menu, scroll down to Security & Privacy, tap the privacy bar, and then tap the link labeled Permissions Manager. iOS users can access your phone’s app privacy reports by visiting the “Privacy & Security” section of Settings.

Delete unused apps from your device. “You bought your house? Delete this real estate agent app. Are you looking for the love of your life? You got your dating apps, you found them. Great, delete these apps. Get them off your phone asap,” Caltrider said. She further mentioned that using the browser version instead of a social media app offers a similar experience but with added privacy.

Stop data collection at the source

The next time you download an app from the App Store or Google Play, keep this list in mind and the time it will take to complete it. Again, I don’t think it should be necessary to access most mobile applications without revealing valuable personal information, but it is our current reality.

Get tech companies to stop collecting your data by shutting down their sources of information. Uninstall these invasive apps. Use or don’t use the web version of popular applications. You have the power to bring about change, even if it is small. You also deserve the right to privacy – take some of that back.

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