Are SmartPhones Smarter than Humans?

We live in an age where smartphones allow us to connect to the Internet and perform tasks once thought to be impossible.  People today are more concerned about privacy on their mobile phones than ever before, but are unclear about what is at risk and how they can protect their privacy.  A lack of trust by consumers could hurt the industry in the long run.  Privacy policies are another important element that builds trust with consumers.

Acceptance varies by, among other things, device (mobile or home-based, for example) and the perceived value received in return for sharing the data.  I’d suspect that most car commuters are happy to share their physical location and driving habits with Google for the convenience of having Google Maps alert them to upcoming traffic and providing an alternate route that gets them home before dinner.

my-lookout-infographic-phone-security

The following Infografic was done by Lookout, a rapidly growing company based in San Francisco, California.  With more than 4 million users across 400 mobile networks in 170 countries, Lookout is a world leader in smartphone security and has the highest rating among security apps in major app stores.

Privacy advocates like to call mobile phones by a more menacing name: tracking devices.  Mobile apps log the pages people browse, the products they buy, and the videos they watch. Many apps also note their users’ locations and, over time, glean their daily routines.

Americans own more than 125 million smartphones and 50 million tablets.  Among them, more than half have uninstalled an app or declined to download one because of worries about sharing personal information.  Meanwhile, one in five cell phone users have turned off location tracking on their device to prevent apps from logging their whereabouts.

Recently the FTC issued privacy guidelines for mobile app developers, which are intended to curb abuses. It proposes that app makers publish privacy policies that are easily accessible through app stores.  It also recommends that apps disclose whether they share user information with third parties like advertising networks.

Collecting user data is important in making ads and content more relevant to consumers, and in giving them a better experience.

There are lots of risky behaviors found in mobile apps.  These behaviors fall into four categories:

  • Accessing the user contacts on a smartphone (including the contact information that may come from corporate email that syncs to the phone)
  • Accessing the user’s calendar information
  • Collecting or determining the user’s location and tracking his movements
  • Passing along any or all of this information to ad networks or analytics companies

Profile-of-a-Smartphone-Infographic-600x719-417x500Studies have shown that 96% of iOS and 84% of Android apps can access at least one of these data risk categories.

Smartphone’s capabilities have surpassed those ever associated with a small mobile device.  Cellphones went from being solely used for telephone calls, to nearly replacing the use of computers.  One of the greatest threats to users is applications.

The best rule of thumb is to verify the legitimacy of the applications being downloaded to a smartphone.  As it is, apps require access to a significant amount of data, so ruling out applications can be a great step to take.  In addition, reading the apps’ reviews can be helpful.

Truth of the matter is no one can protect a smartphone better than its user.

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