December 2, 2016

How Much Does that “Free” App Really Cost You?

This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

Not too long ago I posted about how to avoid being tracked by your smart phone.  But couple of small incidents this past week made me revisit this issue.

My cell phone tracked me!

I mentioned I felt I needed to supplement my food storage by picking up at least one item a week for emergencies.  While I was at Costco, my phone started beeping at me.  Thinking I got a text, I checked the phone and found out my shopping list app was beeping me to alert me to deals available at Costco.  Wow, my cell phone actually tracked me to Costco.   I should be more careful about this, so I spent a few minutes trying to figure out how that happened.

I realized several of the apps had been updated with the latest version, and new features were introduced.  At the same time, some of my phone settings got reset.

I went in and reset my settings to avoid getting tracked.  This just goes to show you that even a small thing you may overlooked will cause your privacy to be breached.

Read the Terms and Conditions

The next thing that made me realize the extent of this was when I tried to use a fitness app on my phone and it was no longer allowing me to access it unless I signed in through Facebook or logged in as a member.  It also gave notice of new “Terms and Conditions”  I did not just click on “agree” but went into the document to read it.  The new language clearly states that the app will collect personal information about you, and the company can use it indefinitely.  Not only that, it also stated that these terms can be changed by the company at any time.  So really, it doesn’t matter what you are agreeing to today, they can go ahead and switch rules on you whenever they feel like it.

I don’t want anyone else knowing what calories I am looking up, and what type of exercise I do everyday; that is no one’s business.  So I uninstalled the app and tried to search for one that does not require a log in.  Unfortunately, the other ones are inferior to the one I uninstalled so I think I will pass on the fitness app.

I used to think free apps were great, and they may have been when I got them, but now that many have gotten more popular, it seems they are requiring more and more personal information.  There are apps for calendars, calorie counters, to do lists, shopping lists, you name it.  Although they seem free, these are treasure troves for data mining, as companies are able to collect a whole profile on you:

– when and where you shop

– what you buy

– what you eat

– calories consumed per day

– what type of exercise you do

– activities

– location

There are still many worthwhile apps, but you just have to be more selective.

  • Read the Terms and Conditions before installing
  • Check you settings
  • Whenever there is an update, re-read everything and review your settings all over again
  • Know what you are agreeing to, simply by using their services.  If you don’t like something then opt out.
  • Many users don’t mind the tracking, since they do get something in exchange, but at least everyone should be aware of what information is being collected.

I may uninstall even some of the paid apps.  It is not worth my privacy so I may be going back to paper lists and notes.  A couple of years ago I let my day planner/organizer go, in favor of the portability and convenience of the smart phone.  It may have been bulky but at least my old Day Planner never tracked me.

© Apartment Prepper 2013

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7 Comments on How Much Does that “Free” App Really Cost You?

  1. makes me glad I haven’t updated to a newer phone yet. my old cell doesn’t have apps, but I do save a few things on it like a shopping list and to do list, but it is just saved as a memo.

    • Hey countrygirl, yes, the old ones would suffice for quick lists. The smart phones have a lot more features, but also the tracking ability. Thanks for the comment.

  2. The hubby and I recently “downgraded” to “less smart” phones. Sure I no longer have a million apps trying to distract me with all their convenience or entertainment but I don’t have to worry about tracking like you mention anymore. Getting back in the habit of a paper planner is a bit of a struggle though!

    • Hey Mama Bear, that’s good you’re able to switch back to the less smart phone- they cost so much less too. You’re right though, going back to paper is somewhat of a challenge. Thanks for the comment.

  3. The hubby and I recently “downgraded” to “less smart” phones. Sure I no longer have a million apps trying to distract me with all their convenience or entertainment but I don’t have to worry about tracking like you mention anymore. Getting back in the habit of a paper planner is a bit of a struggle though!

    Do what I do, I use a Palm Pilot. I can keep track of thousands of things on it and it doesn’t cost a monthly utility bill like a smart phone does. I also use it (since 2003) as my office for my business. I can pull up customer info any time any place. I use Palm Tungsten E. No need for paper with a Palm and no one can track/ look into my info. The Palm also is easily backed up to a computer and allows file info exchange with your computer. And Palms are very inexpensive as they are not the latest electronic toys.

    • Hey Chuck, I used to have a Palm! Unwisely got rid of it when smart phones started coming in. Good to know yours still works. Thanks for the comment!

  4. E-Bay has lots of Palms for almost give-away prices. I found a spare Tungsten E for $20.00 with all the books, charger, computer cord and the computer program CD. Works like the ay it was made.

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