(NBC News) — Downloading apps can be a great way to bring fun and function to your smartphone, but the more apps you have, the more data you’re giving away to companies.
Dan Hastings is a researcher for the cybersecurity firm NCC Group. He recently discovered privacy violations in some of the most downloaded robocall-blocking apps.
“I found that a bunch of these apps were leaking personal data to 3rd party companies,” Hastings says.
That practice is commonplace among apps in all categories.
Details about what data privacy are often buried in the fine print, leaving consumers in the dark about what data is collected and where it’s going.
A simple first step to data privacy: don’t go with the default settings.
On many apps, you can limit permissions such as location tracking or opt-out of data gathering altogether.
You can also protect your privacy by cleaning out your device and deleting the apps you don’t normally use.
“If it’s possible to use the web browser version of that app you should just do that instead,” says CNET’s Alfred Ng.
Another thing to keep in mind: if an app is free, you are likely the product. Many free apps make money by selling your data for targeted advertising.
All in all, it’s a good idea to consider the potential privacy tradeoff before you press install.
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