Your Phone Could Be Spying On You

Nokia 2018 Concept phone.

We cannot do without smartphones, and for many of us, they are the first thing we touch when we wake up. You will be surprised at how much your smartphone knows about you. They are getting even smarter.

A recent survey showed the average smartphone owner uses more than 10 apps each day, up 25 percent year to year. One expert said some of these apps allow access to your phone's camera or microphone without you knowing it.

Cybersecurity experts say that this is not uncommon.

"You'd be really surprised," he said. "Most of your apps are using everything to collect data on you."

Data is precious for the marketing and advertising industry and many apps ask for permission to access your contacts, email, texts, photos, microphone, and camera. Some apps may not seek permission first.

"If this app is spying on you, looking at your microphone and your webcam, if you want to, you can uninstall it," he said.

Malware can also introduce secret third-party recording on your phone and it is possible that phones can be infected with a spying virus. Avoid this by not clicking on unknown email links and not trusting suspicious texts.

"Consumers need to be really intelligent about what apps they put on their phone and what apps they put on their kids' phones,"

If you have an iPhone, try this: click on settings, then privacy, then location services, system services, and frequent locations. You’ll notice a list of all the cities you’re in regularly. Click on any specific city, and you’ll find that your phone knows all the locations you frequently visit. 

For Android, Google keeps just as copious notes on your location and, unlike Apple, it is stored in the cloud, where it can theoretically be subpoenaed by law enforcement or accessed by a suspicious partner who happens to know your password.

How to turn it off: both companies let you turn off location histories from the same pages you can look at yours. But if you do that, they’ll get a lot worse at giving you accurate and useful location suggestions. There’s that pesky trade-off again.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that a company that sells you cheap cabs through a slick app keeps data on your journeys. And that data is well-used by Uber to reassure customers that their journey is safe: the company will show you your ride history as well as information about your driver which can be crucial for solving disputes or, if the worst happens, ensuring justice.

How to turn it off: the best way would be not to use Uber. But there’s that trade-off again: old-school taxis, whether hailed from the street or called from a dispatch office, are going to end up charging you a lot more for your newly anonymous journey.

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