Four Tips for Protecting Your Privacy on Smart Phones

While enlightening, the Wall Street Journal’s December 2010 report exposing how some smart phone applications track users was also disappointing. It sometimes seems the amazing utility of each new electronic gadget is matched only by its amazing ability to spy on you-subsequently sharing your preferences, personal information and even your location with savvy marketers who want to know as much as possible about you.

If you love your privacy as you love your smart phone, these tips can help you enjoy both.

  1. Treat your smart phone like a computer. Smart computer users install and use virus protection, avoid questionable websites and send suspicious e-mails directly to the junk folder. That’s a good way to treat your phone as well, particularly as it functions increasingly as a computer.
  2. Read user reviews before downloading new applications. User reviews are great for uncovering bugs in applications and learning from others what issues they’ve encountered with a particular app, thereby allowing you to learn from their experience-and occasional misfortune.
  3. Read user agreements before downloading. Many apps will disclose whether they are using tracking information. Both Apple (iPhone) and Google (Android) require such disclosure for its application developers, so it’s a good place to check. That way you can at least make an informed decision.
  4. Authorize location information only when needed. Obviously if you’re using a location-based application like Yelp, weather or mapping, your location is critical to accurate results. If an app that doesn’t need location information to provide what you need requests it, you have to question the motive.