Are Your Apps Spying on You? - NBC Southern California
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Are Your Apps Spying on You?

People don't always understand what they're downloading and don't know how to prevent the app from gathering data off their phones.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    While your smartphone puts the world in the palm of your hand, you could be giving the world access to your personal information, location and private data. Consumer Investigator Randy Mac reports for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014. (Published Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014)

    The apps you load onto your smart phone may be spying on you.

    Someone could be trying to access your friends' identities, their phone numbers and even your private photos that are stored on your mobile phone.

    What's worse, you're probably allowing it to happen.

    Blame "spy apps," applications you load onto your mobile phone, that have the power to access your private data.

    "The clearest definition of a 'spy app' is an app that looks like it's doing one thing, while it's also mining and trafficking your data in the background," said Juan Carlos Bagnell, a Los Angeles technology journalist.

    Many apps can track the location of your phone, get details about your contacts -- and even some text messages -- without breaking any laws.

    Bagnell says reputable apps come with a list of permissions to access things like your phone history, identity, contacts or location.

    This information is often shared with advertisers and coveted by hackers and criminals.

    "Giving up geo-location becomes a much more serious affair when you're dealing with minors," Bagnell said.

    App users are generally asked to grant access to personal information. The problem is that people don't always understand what they're downloading, Bagnell said.

    There are less reputable apps that may access your information, whether you grant permission or not.

    "I get nervous anytime an application asks for full, unrestricted access to my phone, my Facebook," said LA resident Wayne Phelps. "I don't know who's watching, and it's scary to think what people might actually be able to find on me."

    The key to maintaining your privacy is to say "no" when an app asks to access any information you don't want public.

    It should also allow you to disable information you don't want public.

    If it doesn't offer these options, your best bet is to get it off your phone.

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