Snooping on Your Smartphone: How to Avoid Apps Spying on You

03/24/2015 01:06 pm ET | Updated May 24, 2015

Not all apps are innocent programs with your best interests at heart. In fact, many apps can snoop on you, and some could be collecting your personal data right now. Suspicious apps are not so easy to spot, and shady developers have been trying to get you to download them for longer than you might think.

Going On For Years

Back in 2012, a report published by technology security firm Bit9 stated that around 100,000 of the apps available in the Google Play online store could pose security risks to the user. By looking at the reputation of the developer, how the app is categorized, and the permissions it asks for in relation to what the app actually needs, Bit9 deduced that a quarter of the 400,000 apps they surveyed were suspicious.

It's All in the Terms and Conditions

These types of apps collect your personal information with your permission, because the vast majority of smartphone users simply don't read through each apps terms and conditions. Simple programs like a flashlight app can have a privacy policy that states it will track your location, record websites you browse, even access your personal contacts. Obviously this type of app doesn't need any of these types of access to function properly on your smartphone, but by collecting your personal data the app developers can then use it for their profit.

Protection Against Suspicious Apps

There are a few simple steps you can take to protect yourself against suspicious apps that could harvest your personal data. First of all, you really should read through the terms and conditions (yes, all that annoying small print) before you decide to download them. This especially applies to apps from developers and companies you do not recognize. Second, disable your location services, GPS and Bluetooth when you're not directly using them, as suspicious apps can use these in the background without you even knowing. Thirdly, go through all the apps you have downloaded and check them out. Look for the developer's website, check the permissions you have granted the app, and read some reviews of the app. If anything looks suspicious then delete the app.