Are Flashlight Apps Stealing Your Data? How To Protect Your Mobile Privacy
You may have heard about the recent scandal involving a popular flashlight app “Brightest Flashlight”, that was accused of stealing geolocation data of its users for interested advertisers. The incident has raised a few important questions: how could that have happened and what can each of us do to detect the “spies” before our personal data is revealed.
Surely, simply deleting your current flashlight app will not even qualify as a Band-Aid solution, as there are plenty of other types of applications that have been caught doing the same.
So what is it that they actually do? “Brightest Flashlight”, for instance, was able to get your GPS location, take pictures and videos, retrieve Internet data, view network connections and more. Quite powerful for a flashlight app, isn’t it?
To avoid getting in trouble, here are a few steps to take to make sure your apps are not acting as undercover agents:
One: This can not be stressed enough – you really should check the permissions before downloading any (especially free) application. It’s ok for the app to ask to perform certain functions, but keep an eye out for anything suspicious. If you can see no logical reason why an app may want access to certain data or settings – do not install it and look for safer alternatives.
Two: Disable GPS and NFC on your phone when you are not using them. So unless you are navigating in an unfamiliar neighbourhood or are using NFC to connect to another device in a close range, you can keep these options off – to be on the safe side. True, there may be other instances when having GPS on may be convenient – like using an app to find the nearest takeaway restaurant – but don’t forget that you can always enter your location manually.
Three: Bluetooth communication also falls into the risky zone and it’s recommended to switch it off once you are done using it, as hacking a smartphone device over Bluetooth is not an impossible task.
There are, of course, more drastic measures – like taping some scotch tape over your camera and microphone ports. But let’s be honest: while it may be a necessity for someone in a witness protection programme, for ordinary users using scotch tape on your phone may be going a step too far.
But the fact remains: if you want your data to be protected – measures need to be taken. Start by going carefully through the permissions your app is asking for and this step alone can save you a lot of unwanted trouble.
Have more questions? Head over to our How To Guides section for more helpful tips.