May 282015

No SecretsWould my app spy on me? Do I need to worry about phone apps and my privacy? I’ve worked with and around computers for many years. I’m no guru, but I’m pretty comfortable with technology. What I’m NOT comfortable with is the apparent war between some popular technology and privacy!

We recently left the world of “dumb” cell phones behind, switched carriers, and got Android-driven smart phones via Consumer Cellular™. Yeah, we’re of AARP age, traveling more in the ol’ RV, and wanted to spend a bit less on cellular service than we were with one of the “big three” providers. The move reduced our bill by at least a third and the service and coverage seem fine. Time will tell if it was a good move.

I used to use my cell phone just, well…as a phone. Now, everything is all about apps, Google, and the Google Play store! There are some really neat apps available, and loads of them are free, at least for their basic features! I wanted to download a weather app. The Weather Channel app looked great. Lots of features to keep us informed about current and forecasted weather anywhere in the country. Sounded very handy for RVers.

I hit Install and got a list of things to which the app requires access. Before I hit Accept to start the installation, I decided to read the “fine print” and here’s where my “privacy gene” started to get outraged! I can understand why the app might need access to my location so it can quickly give me weather information for wherever I am. I also get that it might need to know about my Wi-Fi connection and the kind of device I’m using.

But, here’s the thing: WHY does a weather app need to know my identity and/or Google (or other) account information? WHY does a weather app need access to my photos, videos, audio, or other files I may have stored on the phone? WHY does a weather app need – and this seems like THE BIG ONE to me – not only my phone number, but also “…whether a call is active, and the remote number connected by a call.”

Now maybe I’m reading that last one wrong, but it sure sounds as if I’d be granting permission for this app, any time it’s running, not only to know when I’m speaking with someone on my phone, but also to collect the caller’s phone number. Whoa! Why do “they” need to know who’s calling me? What do “they” do with this information? Where is it stored? Who has access to it? What other information can/do they collect?

Needless to say, I didn’t install this app. I looked at other weather apps and found that some of them require access to the same information. I won’t install them either. A couple only need access to location and Wi-Fi info. and that makes sense to me.

Am I being paranoid? Should I just accept that privacy is a thing of the past? Should I believe that these app developers and providers all have only the best of intentions? Maybe, but you know what they say about old dogs and new tricks.

I’d welcome your comments and thoughts. I’d like to learn more about this topic. Maybe my thinking is all wrong. Maybe…

 May 28, 2015  Posted by at 10:51 pm This 'n' That  Add comments

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