Uprite IT Services

Your Phone Apps Might Be Exploiting Your Data

Taking a Selfie in Phone App
May 17, 2022

Today, many of us can no longer imagine life without the world in the palm of our hand. Smartphones are capable of so much that dialing someone has almost become an afterthought. Mobile devices have become integrated into our culture to the point that we view them as more than computers. Androids, iPhones, and other portable devices like tablets have changed how we communicate across all areas of our lives. 

If you own a smartphone, you probably have downloaded a host of apps from either the Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store. Both Android and Apple support millions of mobile applications that can enrich your lifestyle, like productivity apps, health and fitness tracking apps, and photo and video editing apps. Of course, there are many popular apps to explore in your downtime, too, like TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, and games. 

In today’s world of digital trends, fun novelty apps periodically shoot to the top of the charts. These are usually apps that utilize augmented reality and facial recognition technology. If you spend much time on the internet, you have probably heard of and promptly downloaded many of these apps. Who doesn’t want to see their face transformed into an animated Disney Pixar character or photoshopped into their favorite musician’s latest music video? Every day, wildly sophisticated and innovative technology disguises itself in playful apps like these, preying on the bored, natural human curiosity and unsuspecting individuals just looking to laugh. While these apps may appear fun and innocent, experts warn that many of them could actually be putting your sensitive information at risk.

“Apps that use the camera can store your facial information on their servers. Once the data is there, your privacy could go out the window,” says Matthew Waddell, security analyst at Uprite Services.

This week, another one of these apps surfaced, called NewProfilePic. NewProfilePic uses facial recognition technology to transform your headshot into a stylistic portrait, joining the ranks of similar apps such as Voila and ToonMe. Already, NewProfilePic has amassed over one million downloads in the Play Store. Voila currently has over 10 million downloads, and ToonMe a whopping 50 million. FaceApp, the world’s leading face and body photo editing app, was developed in Russia, and has 100 million downloads. Like FaceApp, NewProfilePic also has Russian ties. Oh, and let’s not forget TikTok, an app loaded with facial recognition technology, ranking at over one billion downloads. Combined, that is a lot of data leaking to foreign entities.

“If enough of your data is available, marketing companies can create a profile on you that knows you better than your friends. These apps could gather all your contacts, pictures, location data, and web history. When this data is combined, a profile can be made that shows your interests, hobbies, and activities. This can get very private very quickly,” warns Waddell.

How Can I Keep My Phone Secure?

If you find these trending apps irresistible, it is important that you turn off specific application permissions after downloading them. Never give apps more access to your device than necessary. Check your application’s settings and turn off permissions like location, microphone, and contacts. Still, experts insist that the best way to protect your information is by ignoring these apps completely.

“Never install anything on your phone that you do not feel you need. If you do need it, check it out first. Who is the company behind the app? What are they getting from me? If the app is free, then you are the product. Your data is sold regularly for marketing purposes,” says Waddell.

Some applications, like Facebook and Snapchat, have become so mainstream that we use them almost on autopilot, without even considering possible consequences. If you are serious about your security, consider an alternative:

“Drop Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp, and use security minded alternatives like Signal,” Waddell suggests.

To learn more about Signal, read our blog post on the app: Want Privacy? Message With the Signal App.

You can enjoy technology and keep your data protected, “Technology control trumps technology trust,” notes Uprite’s Virtual Chief Technology Officer, John Mistrot.

For more information about protecting your data, call Uprite Services today at 866-570-3065. We are a managed IT and cybersecurity provider specializing in solutions to streamline your Texas business.

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