Beware: This is how killer apps are putting your privacy at risk

Under its terms and conditions, "Pokemon Go" asks for access to your contacts, location data, photos, media and files on your device.

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Under its terms and conditions, “Pokemon Go” asks for access to your contacts, location data, photos, media and files on your device.

The release of Nintendo’s “Pokemon Go” on July 6 is continuing to shatter a number of records, including the record for the biggest daily turnover in the Tokyo Stock Price Index and clinching the No. 1 spot on the App store in just 24 hours to become the biggest mobile game in US history, with just under 21 million daily active users. All this has sent Nintendo shares soaring by more than 86 percent.

But just what else “Pokemon Go” is shattering — along with so many other wildly popular apps — is your privacy.

Just don’t say you weren’t warned.

Many people who download apps fail to read the fine print. The fine print that states that you, the user, agree to provide access to any and all data on your device — and in some cases even your microphone and camera. Some of the biggest offenders: Waze and What’sApp.

The terms and conditions clearly state that the user relinquishes access to their emails, address book, location and other very private personal info. Even driving data. And when linked with other social media accounts, like Facebook and Twitter, your “anonymity” vanishes.

Not only are you sharing your personal data with the app provider by clicking “I agree” on the apps’ Terms and Conditions, you are also agreeing to allow others, third parties, to access your content, your contacts and all your private information. This occurs on your mobile phone, tablet and now on wearables. You are giving permission to be tracked and for your personal info to be shared. In other words, you are relinquishing all rights to privacy and facilitating a potential security intrusion.

“Pokemon Go” is just the latest app to take advantage of “data access.”

The ‘good’ guys vs. the ‘bad’ guys

Just why do they want your information? To share with third parties to “provide better products and services” — for instance, to provide targeted, contextually relevant advertising, such as deals at local restaurants or sales in nearby stores. These ads target you based on your interests, behaviors, location and preferences. It’s common these days for a shopper to walk into Target and see an ad for the store’s merchandise pop up on their smartphone’s Facebook feed. Or stroll by a local coffee shop and be nudged by a sudden ad on your phone to head inside.

That, of course, is the “good guy” model. Facebook, Apple and Google are just three of the many companies generating billions of ad dollars this way off your private information.

But what about all the information you are unwittingly making available to the “bad guys”? Before you post the next family vacation picture on social media, think about what you are sharing with these third parties. It is, quite literally, “I am not home.”

“Is privacy now a thing of the past? … Ask a millennial what they think about privacy and the sharing of their personal data, and they just shrug nonchalantly.”

To demonstrate the data you are routinely sharing, walk through these next steps. If you are an iPhone user, here’s how you can easily see if you are vulnerable to a data hack:

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Tap Privacy.
  3. Tap Location Services (If Off, you have nothing to worry about).
  4. Scroll down and tap on Systems Services.
  5. Scroll down to Frequent Locations (if Off, your privacy is intact).
  6. If ON, tap on Frequent Locations.
  7. Tap on any of the History details.

Up will pop the last six weeks of your whereabouts, including frequency, time of day and amount of time spent at each location! Of course, this is not limited to iPhone users.

Scary …

And even scarier is the fact that this information can be mirrored, hacked or used by others for nefarious purposes. Another question to consider is where your previous locations prior to the last six weeks are being stored. Who has access to that, and is it secure?

The lesson here is, Read the fine print! Understand your rights and what personal information is being provided to others. Understand what and how it will be used and how it is being safeguarded.

Is privacy now a thing of the past? Unfortunately, this is just the beginning of the erosion of our personal privacy. Ask a millennial what they think about privacy and the sharing of their personal data, and they just shrug nonchalantly.

These days, the password on your smartphone is about as secure as locking your front door and leaving the windows wide open.

— By Richard Siber, founder and president of SiberConsulting and a former partner at Accenture

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