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How Unwanted Apps May Be Spying On You

Contextual or targeted advertising is a recent digital trend that is raising lots of controversy between websites, advertisers and users. It's a process that uses advanced algorithms to show individual users ads that are relevant to their browsing habits, online purchase history and favorite styles.

However, some people are set on the assumption that advertisers are actually using smartphones to listen in on private conversations – including face-to-face discussions in the home – to bolster the contextual ads even further.

According to a recent study, this probably isn't the case. Researchers monitored the traffic of more than 17,000 Android-based apps on 10 different phones. While certain apps do ask for permission to access elements like your phone's camera or microphone, none of these 17,000 apps attempted to do so with approval or verification.

While this is good news, some of the apps still engaged in shady data collection methods. One of the most prominent activities came in the form of screenshots and even live video recordings of the phones' screens – without asking for approval.

Making this particular trend even more troubling is the fact that this sort of activity was never mentioned in any of the apps' privacy policies. This is obviously a huge concern in the Information Age.

Handling Unwanted and Deleted Apps

Unwanted apps can also install persistent files that exist even after the app itself has been deleted or removed. As such, they'll continue collecting – and reporting – your personal data to any number of unidentified sources.

To avoid this, use your smartphone to navigate to the internal settings. Depending on the make and model of your device, as well as the OS in use, you may have to look around for a "Notifications" tab or an "App Permissions" section. Use this to control the access of individual apps.

Some phones will let you turn certain features on or off, including your device's microphone or camera functionality, effectively making it inaccessible to any app. Refer to the manufacturer's website or the phone's user manual for specific instructions.

You can also browse your phone's internal storage to ensure that any unwanted apps have been completely removed from your system. Again, the exact method depends on the make and model of your phone – refer to the manufacturer's instructions for further details.

Keeping Your Data Safe and Secure

Checking and maintaining app permissions is one of the most effective methods of preventing unwanted access to your personal data. After checking and modifying any current permissions on your smartphone, take a proactive stance toward granting permissions in the future. If an app asks for access to your microphone or camera, or if it attempts to access these elements without your permission, it's time to remove it for good.

Data security is one of the topmost concerns in the Information Age. Even consumers – who might use the Internet for nothing more than shopping or conversing with friends – need to maintain control over their personal data. It's also a responsibility that is shared by big businesses, marketing agencies and Internet service providers alike – for better or worse.


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