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Worried about your privacy when you’re using apps on your cell phone or tablet? Here’s what you can do to protect your privacy before and after you install apps on your device.

Your Privacy on Mobile Apps

It’s important to know about privacy settings on apps. When you download apps, they often ask for permission to access personal information like contacts, your location, or even your camera. They may need this information to make the app work, but they also may share this information with other companies.

Before You Install an App

Before you install an app, here’s what you can do to better protect your privacy:

  • Use official app stores. To reduce the risk of installing potentially harmful apps, download apps only from official app stores, such as your device’s manufacturer or operating system app store. Also, research the developer before installing an app.
  • Know what information the app will be able to access. Before you download an app, read the app’s privacy policy to see how your data will be used or if your data will be shared. Is the policy vague about how the app will share your data? If it is, or if you’re not comfortable with how your information could be shared, you might want to find another app. 
  • Check out the permissions. To gain access to information like your location or contacts or to get access to features like your camera and microphone, apps need your permission. You may be asked to give permission when you first download the app, or at the time the app first tries to access that information or feature. Pay close attention to the permissions the app requests. For example, does it really need to access your location or photos to do its job?

Your Privacy on Apps You Already Have

If an app is already on your phone or tablet, there are still some things you can do to protect your privacy:

  • Review the app’s permissions. Go to your settings to review the permissions to make sure the app doesn’t have access to information or features it doesn’t need. Turn off unnecessary permissions. Consider deleting apps that need a lot of permissions – some apps request lots of permissions that aren’t needed for the app’s function. Pay special attention to apps that have access to your contact list, camera, storage, location, and microphone.
  • Limit location permissions. Some apps have access to your device’s location services. If an app needs access to your location data to function, think about limiting the access to only when the app is in use. 
  • Don’t automatically sign in to apps with a social network account. Signing in to an app with your social network account information often lets the app collect information from your social network account and vice versa. If you aren’t OK with that, use your email address and a unique password to sign in.
  • Keep apps updated. Apps with out-of-date software may be at risk of being hacked. Protect your device from malware by installing app updates as soon as they’re released.
  • Delete apps you don’t need. To avoid unnecessary data collection, if you’re not using an app, delete it.

This article is based on US CERT’s Privacy and Mobile Device Apps.

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