Smartphone Privacy

Smartphones and tablet devices are basically personal computers that fit in our pockets. With recent advances in technology, companies have been able to pack these devices with all the power and functionality of the computer on the consumer’s desk.  Unfortunately, with functionality comes vulnerabilities, and mobile devices have become targets of the same malware and spyware that plague computers.

However, mobile devices pose additional privacy issues that a person will not encounter when using a desk computer. Mobile devices are always-on and always-on-us. They may store different types of user information that would not be found on a desk computer, such as telephone call logs, text messages, and, even a history of our location.

Another significant challenge associated with mobile devices that would not be a normal issue when using a desk computer is the size of the screen. Since the iPhone screen is roughly 4 inches horizontally and most Android phones are not much bigger, this makes the communication of privacy practices and user choices difficult. And although the app industry is thriving (the OAG reports that there are now roughly 1 million apps available to mobile device owners with 16,000 new apps being introduced daily), the industry, as a whole, is still in the relatively early development stages. This has led to some developers worrying more about releasing the newest product and less about the privacy issues that the products may cause. One such glaring issue is that many mobile apps simply do not provide consumers with a privacy policy at all.

A Growing Trend
According to California’s Office of the Attorney General (OAG), the percentage of the population that use mobile devices to search the internet is growing. Here are some of the numbers:

  • 85% of U.S. adults have a cell phone
  • 45% of U.S. adults have a smartphone
  • 61% of U.S. adults have a laptop computer
  • 25% of U.S. adults have a tablet computer
  • 18% of U.S. adults have an e-book reader

However, maybe the most important of all the statistics that the OAG released was the fact that currently over half of all adult cell phone users now use their phone to surf the Web. This rate is now double what it was in 2009.  And close to one-third of cell phone owners claim their phone to be their primary, or only, means of accessing the Internet.

It’s safe to assume that anything you do on your smartphone and any information you store is at risk of being snooped on if you don’t take proper precautions.


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