Big Brother’s Watching: Are Smartphones Invading Your Privacy?

It seems that everywhere we turn these days, there’s always somebody trying to look over our shoulders and infringe on just a little bit more of our personal space. What most of us don’t expect, however, is that our beloved smartphones may be the biggest culprits when it comes to invading our privacy.

Smartphone Invading Privacy

How Safe Is Your Cell Phone?

We’ve always known that cell phone activity is tracked and recorded by our service providers, but are you aware of how that monitoring has escalated as mobile technology has advanced? Obviously GPS enabled cell phones can pinpoint your location to an almost uncanny accuracy, but there are other privacy invaders to watch out for as well.

A prime example is the preloaded software that comes with your phone. This software varies, depending on the carrier, but it could include tracking software like Carrier IQ — a program that is hidden away in many Android devices. Programs like these typically go unnoticed by users, but record web activity and other data to report back to the cell phone carrier.

Dangers in the App Store

Tracking software that’s used by your cell phone carrier is one thing, but when app developers start gathering and distributing your personal data — there’s really a reason for concern. Most of the apps you install on your Android or iPhone have access to an assortment of information, including your location and your phone’s unique device ID (UDID).

The Wall Street Journal conducted a study using 101 of the most popular smartphone apps and found that more than half transmitted the user’s UDID to third party companies without any warnings or consent. Nearly half of the apps included in the study gave away the phone’s location without prior knowledge as well.

Simple games, like Paper Toss, are passing along your cell phone’s unique ID to advertising companies. Well known apps like Pandora are sharing your location, gender, and even your age along with your phone’s UDID. Your cell phone may be sending your name, your phone number, your zip code, and other sensitive data to third party companies and you may not ever know it.

How to Stay Smarter than Your Smartphone

Most of us accept the fact that we’re going to give up a little bit of privacy if we want to fully enjoy our favorite mobile gadgets, but you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your personal life completely. The best way to protect yourself is to read your carrier’s terms of service or privacy policy, and to pay attention to what apps you download and install to your phone.

The Google Play store for Android devices requires app developers to be upfront about the types of data the software will access. There are more than 100 different types of personal data stored on the SIM card for your smartphone. App developers can retrieve any of this info if they choose, including your contacts, your camera, and your other applications, but only if you install the app on your phone. Don’t get caught without a smartphone.

Is There a Reason to Be Scared?

Just because an app requests permission to the personal data on your cell phone, it doesn’t mean that your privacy has been compromised. Many reputable developers use this information for their own research and never share your info with other parties. Be sure to read the reviews and don’t download an app that requests access to information that you don’t feel comfortable sharing.

With Big Brother continuously watching, there isn’t much we can do to escape minor invasions into our personal lives and private affairs. If you’re smart about your smartphone however, it will be the least of your privacy worries.

This article was written by Ella Mason, an experienced freelance writer. Ella specializes in providing informative technology and gadget advice to users.

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