How to protect privacy? Apple App Store, Google Play Store have not done great job; check tip
Anand Venkatanarayanan, CFO at HasGeek says Apple App Store, Google Play Store have not done a great job of protecting privacy- check his top tip.
January 28 is globally celebrated as the Data Privacy Day. The origins of this day comes from the 1981 European treaty - Convention for the Protection of Individuals with Regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data. This was the first time in history that a governing body considered the need for data privacy in the light of rising connectivity and access to information due to technological advancements. The day was officially celebrated for the first time in 2007 by the Council of Europe and after that has become a symbolic day to speak on data privacy issues and challenges around it. On this occasion, HT Tech spoke with Anand Venkatanarayanan, chief financial officer at HasGeek. He explained how a user can protect their privacy while using “modern smartphones - the most privacy intrusive devices on Earth”. Depending on Apple App Store and Google Play Store to do so will not be very helpful, he indicates.
Venkatanarayanan is also a security researcher and writes on data privacy and data protection issues on his blog Fractal Reality. Explaining the problems with the modern smartphones, he said, “Like it or not, it is at the end of the day a device. And just like how you can put a virus in a computer and take it out, smartphones are no different”. But, does that mean users cannot protect themselves at all? To a certain extent, yes. But there are things everyone can do in order to preserve privacy and be more aware of how to ensure data protection.
Protecting your privacy while using a smartphone
Venkatanarayanan correctly calls out that “Most people cannot live without their smartphones”. And that is extremely true. Most of us are guilty of checking notifications on our phone first thing in the morning and the last thing at night - and most of the time in-between. Smartphones are a great utility tool that brings all the information in the world within your fingertips and a great amount of access to tools and services never previously experienced in history. But, are we going overboard with the indulgence? Many experts, including Venkatanarayanan seem to agree.
“Users should install less apps and only download the apps that you absolutely need. I know why people want more apps, because it is so easy to install them. But data says that if you are a consumer, you do not use more than 5-10 apps on an average,” says Venkatanarayanan.
And it does make sense. Using more apps means sharing data with more parties. Additionally, increasing the likelihood of installing malware or spyware that may end up stealing all your sensitive information. But Venkatanarayanan believes that it should be an institutional responsibility to ensure that malicious apps should not exist in marketplaces where users download their apps.
“It is actually a problem to figure out if the app you are downloading is a spyware or not and neither Apple App Store or Google Play Store have done a good job at preventing it. Both platforms have a lot of spammy malware and unfortunately the problem is not going away,” he added.
According to him, the solution to data protection for smartphone users should originate at the manufacturing level. He said, “In general, there has to be a lot of thinking on how to ensure that smartphones are designed properly and data breaches should not happen”.
But till that happens, controlling the urges to download more apps than one needs should do the trick. While it is not a guarantee to protect privacy, it is one of the best practices that will safeguard smartphone users for the time-being. Venkatanarayanan believes that, “If you restrict yourself, you are largely going to be OK”.