Cybersecurity experts raise concerns over application data collection

HARRISBURG, Pa. --- Terrill Frantz, associate professor of eBusiness and Cybersecurity at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, said there's an issue within our devices that experts and people on the street are currently on the same playing field.

“This is a new social problem. No one’s been here before, right? So we’re all trying to figure this out at the same time," said Frantz.

He's referring to data collection within applications on our smartphones and devices.

According to the Pew Research Center, 81 percent of U.S. adults own a smartphone.

On all of these devices are applications, known as "apps."

These applications can include social media platforms to tools, such as flashlights and calculators.

Frantz said all of these applications could be collecting data, including where users are and what they are doing with their devices.

He has a suggestion for people who use numerous applications.

“Reduce those applications down to the number of applications you actually need and use. If you don’t need a calculator on your telephone, uninstall it," said Frantz.

He said there are two problems when it comes to data collection on applications.

First, he said some developers take advantage of users by collecting data that is unnecessary to the application.

The second issue, he added, is once that data is collected, it can be a mystery where it goes next.

“While you may get permission to Facebook to use that data, you didn’t necessarily explicitly say here’s my data, do whatever you’d like with it,” Frantz said.

Once the data is collected, Frantz said it can end up in one of two possible hands: Third-party company that can create extra marketing on your device or cyber criminals.

He said users may get in the mindset that their data is unimportant and unappealing to data collectors.

He added that we might be underestimating the value of our own, individual data.

“When your data is aggregated and collected with a million other non-useful people, that data suddenly becomes valuable," said Frantz.

Frantz said your options for protection include consulting with an IT professional to turn off certain data collection within apps, become hyper aware of what application you download, or go off the grid.

He said there's no reason to panic because big tech companies are doing what they can to root out harmful applications.

However, he noted there are no guarantees when it comes to their protection and having a personal backup plan might not be enough.

“What could someone do if a bad guy got all the location data where I was over the last 24 hours? There’s nothing really you can do, quite frankly," said Frantz.

He recommended always downloading apps that come from accredited application stores and avoid downloading them online.

Frantz also recommended places to search for privacy settings that can be found for Google and Apple products.

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