Better Business Bureau warns smartphone users about apps that violate privacy

Updated: 12/18/2013 11:44 PM
Created: 12/18/2013 11:36 PM WHEC.com
By: Joangel Concepcion

If you think all the apps you are downloading are safe, you may want to think again. Experts say some applications may be violating your privacy and you may not even know it.

One app that has caused recent concern is called "Brightest Flashlight Free."

The Better Business Bureau says millions of people downloaded the app, but they did not know they were allowing access to other information about themselves.

This alarming information came from a recent settlement from the Federal Trade Commission. The company that created the app has already agreed to settle the charges, but local experts say the damage has already been done.

We asked people if they read all the terms and agreements before downloading apps.

"Yes, I definitely read all the terms because I don't want my account information leaking out," said Lydia Collazo. "I'm really careful with that."

But many people we talked to said they do not read the terms.

The Better Business Bureau is saying you definitely should be checking what you download, especially after it found out about the "Brightest Flashlight Free" app. The Bureau says the app deceived ten million users and shared unnecessary data like location status and device information. They say the app is part of a growing problem.

"Retailers and marketers are using our activities to further grow other businesses, so unfortunately now it's the fact that it's right in our very own hands and we didn't even know," said Peggy Penders, Communications Director for the Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York.

Joe Testa from Positron Security wasn't surprised by the warning. He says some of these apps are an easy gateway to your information: your contact information, serial number, and contact list. The apps can even monitor what other apps you are downloading.

Testa says the key to your own security is keeping your eyes open.

"A game doesn't need access to your GPS coordinates," he said. "That should be a red flag right there. So paying attention to what you're installing will get you very far."

Aside from keeping an eye on those terms, here are some other tips that can help you protect your information:
- Research the company. Take a look at user reviews.
- Make sure you are checking your privacy settings often, and set them as high as possible.
- Do not share your location when you are prompted.
- Go through your updates and delete any apps you are not using.


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