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What information do applications for smartphones get without our knowledge?

Many of us start the day by opening mobile apps – before breakfast and the first cup of coffee are ready. We use them for any daily business: we are looking for the right address, keeping a training schedule, planning a family budget.

Most recently, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg answered questions for US congressmen for 5 hours. During the hearings, several senators asked him whether Facebook could listen to private conversations through telephone microphones and use information for political purposes, to which the founder gave a negative answer.

But users’ fears from this have not diminished. Therefore, the American edition of Wired conducted an investigation into what data applications for smartphones can or cannot access.

What applications can access
This is partly due to the permissions of the applications: they are simplified and designed to provide a minimum amount of information, as they request access to your data. And although they have improved, like the applications themselves, this is not enough to match the complexity of the data collection technology that now surrounds us.

Now it may seem obvious, but mobile apps, and not just Facebook, can use any interaction to monitor a crazy amount of data, for example, when you order pizza. For example, many iOS and Android applications are capable of accessing the phone’s microphone, cameras, camera, location services, calendar, contacts, motion sensors, voice recognition, and social media accounts.

So, some of them need access: a photo app, such as Instagram, does not work without access to the smartphone’s camera, just like a travel app, such as Uber, doesn’t work without location information. Reject these permissions and you will break the functionality.

One of the Android application developers, who chose not to be named, said that after granting access to a location, application developers can get and use information even about which floor you are living in and keep track of which places you are visiting.

At the same time, a former technology director at Yahoo, who now heads Silicon Valley research firm called Auryc Amod Setlur, said that one of his employees noticed that using the travel app, he was able to learn some interesting behavioral patterns of his clients, based on how they hold their phones.

How to prevent applications from collecting information about you
Almost all the application on your phone to some extent collect information about you. This is a common practice, as programmers and device creators need data to improve their work. But not all and not always. For example, Google sometimes collects information simply because you allowed it to.

Hence the question: how to limit the application in this?

There are several ways:

No matter how trite it may seem, to prohibit applications in which you doubt access to data. But another problem arises from here – the application becomes useless and you cannot use it 100%.
Location History Clear all geolocation data saved, for example in Google. If you have multiple accounts on your device, then you should switch between them. But this will not give you 100% protection, because the application has previously received a lot of information about you and managed to process it.
Use VPN. But note that this is a double-edged sword. While other applications can not get information about your location, the anonymizer itself will receive it with interest. In addition, it may interfere with the correct operation of other applications.

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