Are Your Apps Compromising Your Privacy?

The world has gone mobile, and that means millions of apps are being installed every day on smart phones, tablets, and other devices that rely on Internet access. What most people don’t know is that when they download an app, they are subject to user agreements that allow the owners of the apps to collect personal and private data that will be shared with advertisers. You might think that apps like Facebook, WhatsApp, and other social media platforms would be the worst offenders, but according to Forbes staff Parmy Olson, the worst offenders are actually games like Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds. Locational data is one of the things these apps collect. The game developer doesn’t care where you play, but the advertisers who pay the game developers to include their ads in the app most definitely do.

App Grades

PrivacyGrade.org Database Scores on User Expectations VS Actual App Behavior.

You might’ve noticed that apps nowadays will inform you about what type of data they collect before you finish installing it. As an advocate for transparency in all facets of life, simply stating that your data is being collected is not enough; the developers of these apps and games should let you know exactly where your data ends up, who’s buying it, and for what purpose. On the other hand, it’s a little understandable that free apps require advertisers in order to stay in business. But it’s also important not to confuse this data collection with up-front advertising on certain free apps that allow you to pay a small fee to remove ad banners. This fee only pays for your right not to be advertised at directly, It does NOT mean they stop collecting your data! It only means that you’ll be advertised to later through a different medium.

So how far does this go? How much data is being collected? A driving apple called Google Waze collections your locational data, but it also shares this data with local governments! Doesn’t that strike you as “Big Brother” behavior? It’s not a matter of whether you have something to hide, but rather a reasonable expectation of privacy within your own property – including your car and where you’re going every day! It can go further than that. Last month Twitter unveiled Fabric, a platform for building mobile apps. Included in the tools is something called Digits, which is used to send SMS Registrations to people signing up for mobile app services. Normally this would an expensive undertaking for the owner of the app, but with Digits, Twitter would be paying for the text delivery. However, Twitter also gets to keep the phone numbers for advertising purposes. This behavior isn’t explicitly explained to anyone downloading or registering for the app!

So the question remains: Are your apps compromising your privacy? YES, absolutely they are! The more important question is this: do you care enough to make changes to your mobile behavior?

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Adapting to Well-Informed Customers

The power of knowledge and information is no longer in the hands of companies, businesses, and products. The spread of information has grown exponentially with the advent of search engines, Wikipedia, and most importantly, customer reviews via sites like Yelp. According to SAPVoice via a Forbes article, “Customers are tracking down information via Google; looking at what other consumers have to say about products and services on Amazon and Facebook; and researching what other business buyers are saying on LinkedIn.” This means that you, as a business, are no longer in total control of your reputation, and every blunder, misstep, and snafoo you make can be broadcast to the public. And you cannot delete them. You shouldn’t even try, because we all know attempts to delete or hide information from Internet users will only lead to an exponentially opposite reaction (see the Streisand Effect). So what can you do? The landscape of business and closing a sale is forever altered, and those that fail to adapt will fall behind. Social media and customer engagement is the key.

Social media sites are where you customers congregate, socialize, and subconsciously share information that may be valuable to you. That’s how sites like Facebook advertise to their users so effectively. As a company, you have to stop thinking like a company and start connecting with people on an individual level, and that means appointing a Community Manager – someone who knows the ins and outs of social media sites, and most importantly, someone who is great at interacting with people. In other words, you need a face, a voice, and a personality to be at the forefront of where your customers and potential customers will receive their first impression of you. As a company, your priority is to make a sale, but with a great Community Manager, you can leave a positive and lasting impression that will keep a customer coming back for more. Play your cards right, and they’ll bring some friends with them. Creating a stellar personality and profile and your customers will become your advocates, and this is where you want your social media presence to land.

Customers as Advocates

Like I mentioned earlier, people’s impressions of you and your products come not from you, but from the experience of others. If you have ready, willing, an able customer advocates, you’re essentially receiving free advertisement! If you’re good to your customers, they’ll be good to you.

Social Logins: Who Did You Let In? [Stickied to Top Now]

social-login3Think before you click. If you shop online, you’ve probably seen it before: social login buttons that allow you to create a brand new account with a website without filling out the usual forms. If you thought voluntarily filling in those annoying little boxes with your personal information was getting a little too close for comfort, can you imagine the kind of information you’re giving up by allowing them access to your social media accounts?!

Let’s get one thing straight: unless you outright lied about every bit of information about yourself or fiddled around with the security options onfacebook-personal-profile-marketing-work-education-settings-public the social network account you’ve chosen to use at a social login gateway, you’re handing over all the information you’ve mistakenly (or unwittingly) marked as “Public”. This includes your birthday, Pages you’ve liked, friends you’ve connected to, everything on your wall, your personal websites, other social media account usernames you listed, etc. But you’re not the only victim here. Even your friends who have Public profiles will have their data collected simply because they’re connected to you. And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen: the nature of social media marketing as we see it today. Have you even read Facebook’s Data Use Policy?

This type of information collection has its drawbacks. You can’t filter out irrelevant data, and you’ll get tons of it in the dragnet. However, it will help build a scarily accurate portrait of individuals who have already signed up for your services. By logging in with your social media account, you’re doing the equivalence of clicking “Agree” in the Terms and Agreements segment of every piece of software you’ve ever installed without actually reading the Terms and Agreements. Once you put your data out there, it’s no longer yours to keep, alter, or hide. Think before you click.