5 popular apps you should be wary of if you care for your data privacy

The digital world is not a kind place for people safeguarding their personal data.

 |  5-minute read |   30-08-2017
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In the last couple of months, India has been awakened to the perils of not keeping its personal data safe. A combination of high profile ransomware attacks – Petya and WannaCry – which breached the personal data of thousands of computers and the Supreme Court's (SC) recent ruling declaring privacy a fundamental right have led to increased focus on data privacy. 

The SC's ruling pronounced by a nine-judge bench on August 24, 2017, was not just against storing and sharing of an individual's biometric data by UIDAI, but also raised questions on popular applications and services that silently go on collecting our personal data, often without our consent.

The apex court rightly expanded the debate beyond just Aadhaar and put the focus on the privacy policy of tech giants like Google and Facebook, who have time and again been found guilty of breaching data privacy of users. Now with privacy becoming a fundamental right, it's time we wake up to the threat posed by the invasive glare of the applications that find shelter in our phones.

The digital world is not a kind place, and thus for its inhabitants, remaining oblivious to the harm of blind usage of apps and services is not an option. Hence, here are five applications/services that you should steer clear of if you want to keep your personal data, personal. 

Sarahah

One of the most popular applications on the Google Playstore and Apple's App Store, Sarahah has spread like wildfire in the last few months. Launched initially in February 2017 as a website, the app within 30 days brought in 2.5 million users in Egypt, 1.7 million in Tunisia and 1.2 million in Saudi Arabia. 

The app's creators say that Sarahah is essentially an anonymous messaging service, which helps people "discover their strengths and areas for improvement by receiving honest feedback from colleagues and friends in a private manner". However, for an app that talks about honesty, it has exposed itself to be pretty dishonest in nature. 

The app has reportedly been silently collecting users’ phone contacts data without even informing them. It was recently found that once the app is installed on a phone it harvests all phone numbers and email addresses stored on users’ phone without making any disclosure on the data collection.

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Pokemon Go

When thousands across the globe embarked on a journey to "catch 'em all" in this Augmented Reality (AR) based game – Pokemon Go – little did they know they were exposing their sensitive personal data to be downloaded and used by its creators, Niantic Labs. 

The game which has no use for your personal data and only relies on GPS location to bind you in its spell was found by security analysts to be not just copying contacts, but even confidential information such as emails.

The developers gave the game full access to the users Google account if they used it to log into the game from an iOS device. This access to the Google account essentially gave Niantic a free pass to the email, contacts, documents, even photos and videos stored in the linked Gmail and Google drive accounts. 

After this invasive behaviour was red flagged by users, Niantic said in a statement that it will drastically limit the access it requests going forward. Good work Niantic. 

If you still use Pokemon Go and not sure of the data that the app has access to, head over here to revoke account permission for the application. 

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WhatsApp

Now, this is a tough one. WhatsApp is one of the most widely used applications across the globe, and for good reason. With 1.3 billion monthly active users the platform is used on a daily basis to send and receive billions of messages every day. The application also provides free video and voice calling support. However, all this shimmer of shiny features cannot hide the fact that it is one of the most invasive applications available to smartphone users.

WhatsApp which originally prided itself on privacy, after being taken over by Facebook introduced new terms and conditions, that allow it to share your personal information with its parent company – Facebook. The social media giant has time and again tried to shrug off concerns regarding this harvesting of data, and has even claimed that these changes have been brought in to provide better service to its users – an argument that we aren't buying. 

Uber

Another service that has been caught violating its users' privacy is the popular cab hailing portal – Uber. The company of late has been in the news for all the wrong reasons with its former CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick even stepping down after being accused of promoting a culture of sexual harassment in the workplace. 

However, as it turns out, that wasn't even the worst of the unethical practices being carried out by Uber employees under Kalanick's nose. Recently, the company was caught violating user privacy by still tracking the location of iPhones even when the Uber app was deleted from the phone. 

The cab hailing service earlier this week also agreed to end a controversial policy of tracking riders for a couple of minutes even after their trip ends. 

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Angry Birds

One of the first applications of the modern era to have gone viral, Angry Birds has over a 100 million downloads on the Google Playstore, and with that unfiltered access to a 100 million contact books, message libraries, call logs, network provider device ID, and number.

Interestingly, the game, which still is widely popular amongst millions of users across the globe, is so "leaky" that it also was reportedly exploited by security services such as NSA and UK's GCHQ to track potential trouble makers. 

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So, what do you think? Are you addicted to these invasive applications, by any chance?

Also read: BJP member Shaina NC shames victim on Twitter and follows it with a lame ‘hacked account’ excuse

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