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Apr
27
2011

5 Privacy Tips for Mobile App Users

1. Look For Signs Of Trust
Check consumer reviews before you download an app. Users are quick to publicize bad experiences so you can typically find out if you’re dealing with a “scammy” or “spammy” app by reading recent reviews of the app in your mobile app marketplace or store.

Look for trustmarks too – TRUSTe now certifies the privacy practices of mobile applications, such as Yelp’s iPhone app. Look for TRUSTe’s green privacy seal to identify mobile apps that protect your privacy. Part of our privacy commitment to consumers includes privacy dispute resolution support. If you have a privacy complaint with a TRUSTe-certified app you can file a complaint with us directly from your phone and we’ll
follow up with you.

2. Read The App Privacy Policy
An app should contain a privacy policy or link to an external policy – contact the app developer and request this information if they fail to include it. An app’s privacy policy contains important disclosures, such as what information the app collects and how it uses that information. Some apps, for example, may access your contact information or notify your social contacts of your app use after asking you to sign-in using your existing email or social network log-in credentials. Activities like this are disclosed in an app’s privacy policy so by reading it you can make informed decisions about sharing your personal information.

Where can you find an app’s privacy policy? It’s typically found under the “Settings” or “About this App” tab, or as a link at the bottom of the app screen. The privacy policy of the Callvine iPhone app, for example, can be found by clicking “About Callvine” and scrolling to the bottom of the app screen where you’ll find a “Privacy Policy” link.

3. Review and Set App-Level Privacy Settings
Many mobile apps have privacy settings within the app itself, typically via a “Settings” or “Privacy” tab on the home screen or control panel. These settings can manage activities like whether the app can access your location information. Before using an app, review the privacy default settings on the app to make sure you agree with them.

Some apps engage in mobile ad targeting, collecting information about your online activity or using such information to deliver you targeted ads on your mobile phone. It may be possible to opt-out of targeted mobile advertising directly within the app privacy settings, but in some cases these opt-outs may only be available via the company’s traditional website.

Where can you find an app’s privacy controls? They are typically found under the “Settings” tab of a mobile app. The popular Facebook mobile app for iPhone, for example, has its privacy settings located under the “Account” tab within the app.

4. Review and Set OS-Level Privacy Settings
Most mobile operating systems (OS), including iOS (iPhone), Android, and Blackberry, offer privacy settings. By using OS privacy settings, for example, you can usually turn off the phone’s ability to geo-locate you, thus denying all apps the ability to access your location data. You can also use these settings to create a password to access the phone, a smart idea if you have sensitive information stored on it that could be compromised in the event of phone theft or loss.

If you’re using the Android mobile OS, for example, you can find the phone’s location privacy settings under the “Settings” tab on the phone’s home screen. Android users can deny or allow various location permissions on their phones, such as permitting wireless networks to detect their position or enabling GPS satellite location. iPhone users, via their OS privacy settings, can restrict or allow location data sharing on an app by app basis. For example, iPhone users might want to allow map and restaurant apps to access their location data, but restrict gaming apps from accessing this information.

5. Pay Attention to Pop-Up Notices
Many mobile apps may ask to show you pop-up alerts or will display them by default. Usually, these pop-ups are about app updates or activity (such as a friend request), but sometimes you’ll see privacy pop-ups, like a pop-up requesting your location data. It’s worth taking five seconds to read these short notices before clicking “accept” or “ok”. Also, if you turn off an app’s notifications, be aware that you may disable privacy-related pop-up notices as well.

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