According to AdaptiveMobile, the world leader in mobile security, 75% of the public may be giving away their physical location when downloading free applications. What makes this information even more alarming is that they polled 1024 consumers. That poll revealed that 69% of them felt that this breach in privacy is totally unacceptable, yet 3/4 of them failed to read any of the terms and conditions for the apps which included access to data such as their physical location.
“Consumers are outraged that their data may not be secure but are unwilling to protect themselves,” says AdaptiveMobile VP of Handset Security, Ciaran Bradley. “It’s like getting angry at the prospect of being burgled, but announcing publicly when their house is unoccupied. We are downloading more apps than ever before, but people are unaware that their location and other information can be harvested by applications. This is comparable to half of the population being unaware that they need to lock their front door. Whilst mobile operators do have a role to play to protect users, both need to step up and take responsibility.”
Just reading the information that AdaptiveMobile has published can be taken in two ways. You could turn your sights on the app developers and major companies that are technically stealing information from you, even though by downloading the app you agreed to let them, or, you could set your sites on the people who download the apps and then complain about it. The latter of the two is what I am most frustrated about.
Sadly the world we live in has absolutely no accountability for its own actions. For instance, a woman sues McDonalds because her coffee was hot and they didn’t warn her when they handed it to her. What about the woman who sued Google for giving her bad directions via Google Maps that lead her to be hit by a car while she was walking. There are countless cases of stupidity that appear in the court systems. What makes it worse is they usually win their suit.
What does any of that have to do with mobile security? A majority of the time an application will tell you what information it will be collecting when you install it. It is no fault of the developer or company if you agree to those services. Granted an app like Angry Birds shouldn’t need your location to shoot a bunch of pigs. They say it is for market research and to better target consumers for products and updates. I get that, since none of us want to sit down and take a survey to help any of them. We may complain about it and try to fight it, but the fact is we still download it because we want to, not because there was a gun to our head. Who is at fault in these situations? The consumer. Yes, you and I are.
Now here is what really sets me off. Those same people who are finding the unnecessary collection of personal data appalling, are the same users that are posting their life story on Facebook and Twitter. These same users use check in services like 4Square which uses your GPS location so you can tweet your exact location!! Which brings me back to the idiocy of the population. If you are so concerned with your privacy then please explain to me why you continue to willingly publish everything that is private on the web. Why do you leave town and tell all your twitter followers that you will be gone tomorrow afternoon for a week? Especially after weeks ago you checked in at home and proudly displayed where you live? Are you just that stupid or is it more of a case of the blind leading the blind?
What can a person do though? Well, first of all quit publishing your every movement to Twitter and Facebook. Those services are designed to be used for sharing and communicating. Those of you that lock down your Facebook to friends only have the right idea. Those of you that leave it open to everyone are sharing with potentially harmful people and/or companies that search out keywords. You aren’t protecting your self so why should anyone else help protect you. If privacy is a concern, carefully read the requested permissions of an application before you hit ‘install’. If there is something that you feel uncomfortable about don’t install the app. Granted, there are applications that you just want no matter what the permissions are. In those instances you need to make the decision if the pros out weigh the cons. Ultimately you, the consumer, are in control of what your device is granting access too. If you disregard that, then you better not be the one standing up and complaining about it.
Please, take some time to explain your views on the subject in the comments below. Prove to me why we should be focusing our efforts on mobile security that a large portion of the population totally disregards anyways. Explain why services like 4Square are different than any other application that uses your location for a service.