Do You Use Apps? Here’s How to Protect Your Privacy From Them

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Keep tabs on your apps. Be thoughtful about the personal information you share with your apps and accounts. January 24th to 28th, 2022. staysafeonline.org/data-privacy-week

You probably store a large amount of personal information on mobile apps. These apps may be integral to your life, but the caveat is that the companies that own the apps can access your private data with them. It’s important to take a few simple steps to control how they use of your data. We’ll get you started with three apps you might be familiar with: Venmo, Amazon, and Facebook. 

Venmo

Venmo is one of the most popular money transfer apps in the country, with tens of millions of people using the service in the past year. However, since the app combines banking with certain social media features, it poses some privacy risks that should not be overlooked. The following security measures will help keep your Venmo use private. 

Don’t use Venmo on public WiFi networks 

If you use the app on public WiFi, hackers can easily access your account. Limit your Venmo use to private WiFi networks and turn on a VPN if you must use the app in public.  

Make your transactions private 

Venmo makes all of your transactions public by default. Adjusting this setting is an important step to securing your app activity. Open the Venmo app and go to Settings > Privacy > Private (under Default Privacy Setting) to make future payments private. You can also make past transactions private: go to Settings > Privacy > Past Transactions > Change All To Private. 

Amazon

Amazon has become increasingly ubiquitous in recent years. Amazon develops products from Alexa to Ring Doorbells. They ship about 1.6 million orders per day. Therefore, it is important to know and adjust your privacy settings for this powerful app.   

Limit your public profile 

Amazon creates a profile for each user automatically set to Public and shares certain account information on this profile (such as your location, name, and product reviews). To control what is visible on your profile, open the Amazon app and go to Account > Profile > Edit your profile; from there, you can deselect the categories you don’t want to show. 

Clear Alexa voice recordings 

If you have an Alexa device, your voice commands are automatically saved to improve the device’s AI technology. To stop saving these recordings, open the app and go to Settings > Alexa Privacy > Manage Your Alexa Data > Choose How Long to Save Voice Recordings, then press Don’t Save Recordings. 

Facebook

Facebook has been the subject of various data privacy controversies; its history of tracking makes it especially important to understand the app’s security settings. There are two important privacy features you can use to limit Facebook’s ability to track your use of other websites and applications. 

Stop using Facebook Login 

When you login to other sites using your Facebook account, these companies can see your account information such as your name, email address, and Facebook comments. Facebook can access information about your use of that secondary site too. To separate Facebook from other accounts, go online to the Facebook home page, Settings & Privacy > Settings > Apps and Websites > See More. Click the box next to the apps listed, then click Remove. 

Keep your Off-Facebook History cleared 

Facebook collects information on your online activity from other sites and uses that data to send you targeted ads. You can, however, adjust your settings to prevent them from collecting this information. On a computer, go to the Facebook homepage. Next, open Settings & Privacy > Privacy Shortcuts > View or clear your Off-Facebook Activity > Manage Future Activity, then turn off the Future Activity switch. 

You can take a few general steps to limit overreaching data collection from any app. Read its App Store reviews, update apps frequently, delete those you don’t use, and use a VPN as much as possible. Additionally, ensure that you are informed about the apps you install: do research before new downloads and read about the privacy policies of your most-used apps. The best way to protect your data privacy is to become an aware and knowledgeable app user. 

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