Our world is one that is perpetually connected—24 hours a day, seven days a week. From our computers to our tablets to our smart phones and even smart watches, it is almost unthinkable to not be connected to a device at all hours of the day. It’s not something we even give much thought to in the first place. But did you know that every time you open your favorite app, those app companies are collecting your personal data and using it for their own uses?
Understanding the real threat of identity theft and what companies do with the data we willingly allow them to collect may open your eyes to the importance of privacy in this connected world we live in. Logging in with Facebook, connecting to social media everywhere we go and allowing companies to collect personal data can be very dangerous. Here’s a look at what’s really happening behind the curtain.
How Do Companies Use Information Collected from Apps?
Many of the apps you have on your phone, even the one used to make your phone a flashlight, sell the data they collect to advertisers. Data collected from apps and other devices, such as the Fitbit, for example, may be used in many different ways, like for city planning based on the foot traffic of the areas you travel. The data collected may also be used to price life and health insurance in the future or determine if somebody is suitable for employment.
It may be even worse. A joint research report by Intel Labs, Penn State and Duke University discovered that about half of the Android apps not only send geographic information to remote ad servers without you knowing, but about 25% of them will actually send the phone number, unique phone identifier and the serial number of the phone, as well.
This information is often used to create profiles about what you like and dislike for marketing. However, it could be used for many other purposes and often the profiles are sold to third-parties for advertising.
Are You At Risk for Identity Theft?
With so much information easily gathered by your phone and sent to third-parties, you are certainly at a greater risk of identity theft. Digital access has allowed hackers to use phishing scams, spyware, malware and many other ways to steal your information.
Javelin Strategy & Research reported in a study that social media puts a person at a higher risk for identity theft, reporting that, from 2010 to 2011, identity theft increased by 13% in only one year. The report showed that 68% of users had shared exact birthdates, 63% shared where they attended high school and 18% shared their phone number—all factors that contributed to the rise in identity theft.
These are all things you may already be using as an added security question to retrieve a password or login to an account. If the answers to these questions are easily found on your Facebook profile, identity theft becomes much easier.
What Can You Do to Protect Yourself?
There are many things you can do to ensure you are protected. It can start with something as simple as LastPass, which remembers your passwords and protects them, but you need more than just this program. Identity theft insurance can help to protect your assets and it’s less than $15 per month for a full family. You can also use one of the many programs out there allowing you to browse privately on your computer.
When it comes to your smartphone, you may want to check each app to see what type of data it’s collecting. You can find instructions about how to shut off location services and other data collecting by searching online, as well.
It’s important to not only take the right steps to protect yourself, your family and your business, but to also realize the value of your personal data and to put pressure on companies to value it, too. This is why 2nd Cell makes data security a top priority when you bring in your phone to be recycled or traded in. We wipe clean every device that comes through our doors using multiple sanitation tools in a secured facility, ensuring the complete eradication of all personal data and corporate information. Your data is your identity—take care of it! We promise to do the same.
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