Brian M. likes to use his smartphone to take pictures, so he downloaded a camera app that he used to edit and filter pictures.
The app called Beauty Plus, was a top app, and has been downloaded by hundreds of millions of people.
But Brian didn’t know the camera app was doing a lot more in the background.
When Brian downloaded the app, it accessed his camera without asking for permission. It also launched a series of advertisements as soon as he opened the app.
The company that developed the photo app is called Meitu, and it was found the app contained malware that collected user data and stored it on its Chinese servers.
Many different camera apps are run by the same Chinese company, and they are known to collect user data and sell it.
In fact, more than half of the most popular camera apps are based in China.
Now, when you download an app, it will typically ask for permissions to things on your phone like the calendar or camera, these are needed for the app to function.
But there are plenty of apps that ask for permissions that are not needed.
And when you give an app access to a certain function of your smartphone there could be risks.
For instance, if you allow an app to use your microphone, it could be used to listen to you.
Sometimes these apps ask for unnecessary access such as recording audio, using GPS, and call logs.
One photo app included over 40 different permissions to obtain data on the phone.
Some of these apps don’t even ask permission to use your camera, accessing without permission like Brian’s did.
And a few of these photo apps don’t even use the camera part of the smartphone, rather, they obtain the storage of photos that are taken.
Since there are risks with certain applications, here are a few of the most popular and most dangerous apps that people are using.
Almost every weather app will ask to access your location. This makes sense since you want to know the weather forecast for your exact area.
However, once you give these apps access to your location the apps will track your location 24/7, and many weather apps will sell your location data to advertisers.
Keep in mind that apps that sell your location data are not going to want you to know and it could be buried somewhere in the fine print.
But there is no telling how these weather companies are protecting your data.
If there was a breach, then everything from your favorite restaurant to your doctor’s office could be exposed.
If you choose to use a weather app the best thing to do is to put in your zip code for the latest weather.
It takes more time, but it means you don’t have to share your location with the app.
Temu is an online shopping app with prices that are seemingly too good to be true (this is definitely a red flag). For instance, you can get a wedding dress for $23.
It’s the second most popular shopping app in the U.S., just behind Amazon, and over 50 million Americans use the app.
So, a lot of people are using Temu. But like a lot of shady apps, Temu is tied to China.
You see, Temu is based in Boston but headquartered in China.
One catch with Temu is that you are buying directly from China. Most of the shipping time is one to two weeks since the product is coming from overseas.
But that’s not the biggest concern.
Temu collects data such as your name, address, birthday, IP address, and browsing data. The company is likely selling your data to make up for the low prices.
Their business model is selling your data, and they use cheap prices as bait to lure you in.
They lose money on the goods they sell, knowing they’ll harvest your data and sell it for big bucks to anyone who’ll pay.
The fact is that the cheap prices aren’t worth compromising your data. Heed the red flags and stay far away.
This is a social media app and a mobile payment app in one.
WeChat has billions of users around the world, but it is owned by a Chinese company called Tencent.
The company has tried to convince users that it is safe by saying that its servers are outside of mainland China.
But the servers are in Hong Kong, where servers follow the same requests as those in mainland China.
WeChat monitors conversations between users and there is a good chance they are handing over your data to the Chinese government and selling it to third parties.
This is why WeChat is not the place to conduct financial transitions.
With so many apps available for smartphones it’s important to be extra vigilant in what you download to your smartphone.
Many of the most popular apps don’t make security a priority.
The best way to protect yourself is to know the dangers of certain apps and adjust the privacy settings on your smartphone.
You should limit the access you give to smartphone apps, even if you are doing something as ordinary as checking the weather.