Why you should start using a privacy app to protect yourself
Like most modern innovations, the internet has both benefits and risks. The internet’s best feature is that it facilitates thousands of daily activities and tasks, including shopping, working, researching, and staying connected with loved ones. But the internet has also complicated certain issues, namely privacy and the need for privacy apps.
Internet culture prizes convenience and speed over privacy and autonomy. As a result, it’s become more difficult to protect your personal information online. Not only is sharing largely encouraged in the digital sphere, but data tracking is also a common practice. Companies can gather information on your preferences, hobbies, location, and financial situation simply by tracking your online behavior when you visit sites or download apps. Using this information, they can create digital personas, send you targeted ads, and control what you see online.
Using the internet comes with a cost, but certain elements — like downloading and using mobile apps — can affect your level of privacy more than others. When you download and use a regular app, you’re required to do certain things, such as:
Provide personal information
Sync to social media
Adjust privacy settings
Consider how these four app requirements can limit your online privacy and put your personal information at risk.
1. You have to provide personal information
It’s nearly impossible to download and use an app without being asked to share certain pieces of personal information. Depending on the type of app, this information could include your name, email address, phone number, bank account number, or mailing address. Occasionally, it’s necessary to provide certain details — if you want to create an account or receive email updates, for example — but you shouldn’t feel obligated to reveal sensitive information if you don’t want to.
After all, it’s difficult to trust that the apps you’re using are properly protecting your personal information. According to a 2017 study from Deloitte, 81% of U.S. respondents feel like they’ve lost control over how their personal information is collected and used.
This sentiment makes sense given the recent increase in data breaches. The 2019 Thales Data Threat Report showed that 36% of U.S. consumers dealt with a breach in 2018, compared to only 26% in 2017.
Unfortunately, the more personal information you have available on the web, the more vulnerable you become to data breaches and general information mishandling.
It can be difficult to reclaim your information — and, thus, your internet privacy — once you’ve been involved in a breach.
2. You have to give permissions
When you download an app, you’re required to give the app permission to access certain areas of your device, usually for functionality purposes. A GPS app will demand access to your location, for example, while messaging apps might need access to your contact list. This request for permission often comes in the form of a small pop-up box, but some apps have default settings that automatically grant them access to your location, camera, photo reel, or audio recordings.
Allowing permissions can enhance your in-app experiences, but it can also reduce your privacy, particularly if you don’t specify when an app can access your information. Unless you adjust your privacy settings, you may be giving apps 24/7 access to your information, as opposed to only allowing access when the app is actually open.
And though many permissions are necessary for app functionality, many others aren’t. Think: a photo filter app that asks for access to your microphone. What’s more, a 2018 report from The New York Times found that the explanations users read when apps ask for permission are often false or misleading. Some companies use your personal information for legitimate reasons, but many others want access to your information so they can sell it to third parties for customer analysis and marketing purposes.
3. You have to sync apps to social accounts
Some apps require you to log in through social media profiles like Facebook. Syncing your apps to your social media accounts accomplishes a couple of things: 1) it eliminates the number of usernames and passwords you have to remember when using different apps and 2) it allows you to connect more easily with friends who use the same app.
This strategy may be more convenient, but it also decreases your privacy, since syncing your apps to your social media accounts essentially doubles the amount of your personal information available online. It’s a data exchange in disguise; not only does your social media account have full access to the personal information available on the app, but the app also has complete access to every piece of personal information on your social media account. Unless you actively unsync these accounts in your privacy settings, they’ll remain connected even if you stop using or delete the app.
4. You have to configure your privacy settings
Like every social media account, web browser, and other online tool, apps have their own unique privacy settings. When you use an app, you automatically opt into certain default settings that affect everything from how visible your profile is to how many targeted ads you receive. For example, some apps might automatically save your personal information, notify friends if you’re using the app, or display your location.
These settings can drastically reduce your online privacy and make you the subject of unwanted advertising or unsolicited emails. Unfortunately, most companies place the burden on the individual to understand privacy settings and tweak them for increased protection.
If you want to exercise control over your personal information, you have to review the privacy settings for each app you use and download. And while certain apps allow you to modify your level of privacy and still benefit from the app’s basic functions, other apps make it difficult to proceed unless you agree to settings that inevitably lessen your privacy.
How a privacy app can help keep you more protected
The majority of apps you download require you to surrender your online privacy to varying degrees. Fortunately, there are tools you can use to improve your privacy without deleting all your apps or giving up on the internet. Enter: a designated privacy app.
Privacy apps are tools that help you better protect yourself online. Unlike regular apps, the sole purpose of privacy apps is to restore your level of internet privacy without restricting your online activity. Using certain privacy apps can help eliminate the risks you take with other apps you download.
There are many different types of privacy apps, each of which has different benefits. Depending on which app you download, you may be able to:
Choose the level of visibility you’re comfortable with
Mask your personal details
Discover where your personal information is online
Improve your login privacy
Prevent data tracking
Encrypt your personal information
FigLeaf, however, is the only all-in-one privacy app. It works by giving you more control over your personal information and letting you choose just how visible you want to be at any given moment in any given corner of the internet.
If you want to keep certain pieces of personal information easily accessible to receive discounts or suggested ads from your favorite brands, you can. But, if you’re concerned about your level of privacy, you can also hide your personal details and curb data tracking.
Privacy apps are the key to internet freedom
Privacy is a personal choice. Your level of visibility on the internet shouldn’t lie in the hands of companies and web giants — it should be up to you. Certain tools can help you reclaim ownership over your personal information. Using a privacy app like FigLeaf puts the power back in your hands by letting you choose who has access to your personal details. Because when privacy is a choice, humanity is free — free to think, create, connect, and explore without fear or compromise.