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Why you MUST NOT share real personal data while downloading free apps

September 28, 2016 10:06 IST

You should rather use nicknames, incorrect date of birth and if possible make a separate e-mail address for such apps and services. You should also not share your phone number

On social networking sites, people often share photos of adventure activities they undertake. But it’s not just their friends and family but also insurers who might be interested in such images.

Imagine someone going to buy a life insurance and being asked to pay higher premium just because he or she posted such images on social media. This is not future. It is already happening in the developed countries and could soon become a reality in India.

The digital world is built on free service in exchange of user information. When you install a free app or use a free service, it exchanges your personal data with other companies to deliver customised products or advertisements.

Increasingly, it’s becoming difficult for individuals to protect their personal information from being shared.

“In India, it’s even worse. While developed world is enacting laws in this area, there is no dedicated law in India that deals with data protection or user privacy despite the country having a huge base of mobile and Internet,” says Pavan Duggal, a cyber-law expert.

Duggal said Indian smartphone and Internet users are exposed to service providers using their personal data for various purposes, as there are no dedicated laws.

The IT Act of 2000 is also silent on the issue of user privacy. “The moment a person agrees to the terms and condition of the app or service provider, he or she has no control left on the way information will be used. The companies cannot be held accountable thereafter,” says Amit Jaju, executive director, fraud investigation and dispute services, EY India.

Some big companies do invest in protecting the individual data but in today’s world no one is safe from hackers as it was seen in the case of Yahoo, where hackers breached the system to get access to data of millions of users.

While it may not be possible to entirely protect your data, you can take several steps to keep your identity and information safe.

“Avoid sharing your real data. You should rather use nicknames, incorrect date of birth and if possible make a separate e-mail address for such apps and services. Don’t share your phone number,” said an expert.

There are many online services that rate apps based on the information they collect from users and how they use it. You can see the ranking before downloading the apps. If you want to fiercely guard your information, it’s always advisable to go for a paid service or app rather than using the free one.

But paid does not mean privacy protection every time. “One must read the terms and conditions (T&C) that the provider mentions before signing up, which covers the data that they will take from you, how they will use it and how long they will store it,” said Jaju.

It is safer to download apps of the operating system maker, like Google Play for Android. That, however, may not completely take care of the privacy concerns.

Experts point out example of an app that lets you use the phone flash light as a torch. For this simple function, it asks user to give access to the location, text messages, contacts, etc. Delete unnecessary apps from your phone and use the one that you actually need. Many phones these days allow you to control the permission you give to individual apps. You should customise the permissions.

Photographs: Reuters

Tinesh Bhasin
Source: source image