Data Privacy: Why It’s a Concern About Emerging Mobile Applications?

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If I were to ask you what was the last app you installed on your phone, I believe you would answer that within seconds. But what if I ask what are the permissions you granted to that app, that will be quite difficult than the previous question. The reason is very simple, we never actually care to read and comprehend the purpose.

Here are some statistics to make this easy. Let us start with this. As per the report, if we check Personal Identifiable Information (PII) like email address, phone number, etc., the following conclusions can be drawn -

1) Email is the most commonly used piece of information. Out of the total apps in the sample, 48% of iOS apps and 44% of Android apps required Email.

2) Name and Surname (Last Name) were second on the list of PII. It was shared with 33% of iOS and 30% of Android apps.

3) Mobile Numbers were shared with 12% of iOS Apps and 9% of Android Apps.

4) At last, the user’s address was shared with 4% of iOS and 5% of Android apps.

What You See Need Not Be Completely True!

With the above numbers, it is evident what quantity of information is received by the apps on your smartphone. But this is just what “Prima Facie” we can look at. Have you ever wondered while scrolling through Facebook or Instagram how the same shopping products will appear which you have saved in your Wishlist or which you added to the cart?

Yes, you are right. It is not just one app where you are sharing the Personal Information, but the app has also had the right to use it accordingly. Thus, every time you look at an item on the shopping apps, similar choices or products will be displayed while surfing through Social Media (Just to remind you of Purchasing).

Here the “cookies” play a greater role. Whenever you search for the article on a site or any information on any page, it asks permission for the use of Cookies which we happily grant it. This information will be stored in the form of cookies which will come into effect on further searching.

Be Vigilant While Giving Permissions

There are some which can be proved risky. There is a massive amount of permissions an app can request. But all are not necessarily harmful and riskier than some. Risky Permission could provide access to user’s data or resources, these resources can either be a camera or calendar or even SMS messages.

As per the Reports, Camera was a major app that was on the permission list with 45% of Android apps and 25% of iOS apps using it. Tik Tok along with other Chinese Apps banned in India. It is a classic example of permission access to a phone's gallery (Camera roll) and Cameras. 

The problem with risky permissions is that they affect the default app performances. It can potentially affect the users’ stored data and operations of the other apps.

What Are Some Practices Involved in Data Privacy?

Ideally, every app should have the Privacy policy which should clearly state as to what data has been collected, where it has to be stored, who has access to the data, and all such points. However, very limited apps follow these privacy practices.

Certificate Pinning- It’s a security precaution that helps prevent attackers intercepting supposedly secure communications. It does this by ensuring the app only communicates with a server using the correct security certificate.

4 per cent of Android apps and 3 per cent of iOS requesting risky information does not have a privacy policy. A small number of the apps on the sample which were examined have very poor security and privacy practices.

Are All Permissions Necessary? All the Risky Ones too?

Two things should be considered while talking about permission. Firstly, they require users’ data, and secondly, all risky permission doesn’t mean it should be granted. There is a reason as to what and why permission is required. If the app's pop-up asks the user to give access, the user should be smart enough to check whether this app requires this access.

It’s more about being aware as to what is given- than to whom it is given. Apple is much more particular about data privacy as compared to others. Thus, from now on whatever next app you install make sure you see the pop-up permissions with a different mindset!

Written by – Utkarsh Samaiya
Edited by –  Ivanova

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