Why Free Smartphone Apps are Anything But Free

I’m a part of the condemnation, so cliche, “There is no such thing as a free lunch,” every time I think of downloading a free app, it comes to mind.

So, if there really is no such thing as “free lunch”, then what is the bet on installing a free smartphone app? It seems that the answer is our personal data – government agencies around the world are compiling it in their monster database. But when they like to rely on privacy, businesses and advertisers take a different perspective, depending on Barter’s age-old system. There is only one problem: Most people do not realize that a swap is taking place.

My dear friends who are crazy about the NSA Spies told by Edward Snowden in 2013, even when they tell me about their latest free app downloaded, they all become stiff. They look oblivious to rolling advertisements at the bottom of the screen, and are unaware that installing a free app, they are more than allowing the developer to capture their personal data.

An example in Technology News (under FTC investigation) is a free smartphone flashlight app – the way in which the user is allowed to manually turn the camera’s flash LED on. It’s a good idea and quite simple, yet there is a secret that the application needs access to the device function, especially your GPS.

Then again, it can not be so mysterious when you think that more than a million people have downloaded this special torch app. Physical location and any other data that has been captured from many mobile devices, they create a large database of information – one that advertising firms would like to get their hands on. (Want to be on top of privacy debate? Check out the top Twitter Influenza.)

Advertisers and apps

Why do advertisers and marketing firms need to know about a device owner? Better to serve them, of course. But the advertiser is speaking. Is it actually selling more by delivering more relevant ads? For example, AARP advertising means more than retire, as much as anyone under 40 years of age.

To fulfill the targeted advertising on smartphone, marketing firms need to know a lot about the person who owns every one. The following example shows a way to accomplish this:

A developer creates a smartphone app, knowing that no one will pay for it.

In order to cover expenses and make a living, the developer contacts his advertising partner.
The advertiser liked the capability of the app (remember millions of downloads for the Flash app) and signs the deal with the developer, the user information for cash does business.
To be fair, personal advertising has some advantages, especially when an app is smart enough to offer half-value coupons for the restaurant where you eat. But there is a downside also.

Confidentiality problem

I know the privacy pundits who oppose anything that involves giving personal information. There is no way to install a mobile app that captures so much information. Why? For them, it comes to the lack of transparency. For example, how will users know if app developers and advertisers are following their privacy policies?

Actually, this is a good question. Just try to read the Privacy Policy or App End-User License Agreement (EULA). Documents are verbose and are legally filled. And they are tall. Is really long. For example, the privacy policy assigned to the torch app being tested by the FTC and the EULA is at the top of approximately 3,000 words.

There is also a significant amount of academic research that refers to the privacy implications of the targeted ad. A paper published in 2013 by researchers from Queens University in Belfast “Equal issues, new equipment: is the privacy app for Groundhog the Smartphone App for Regulators?” Addresses the topic.

According to Paper Abstract, “Currently smartphone apps are creating confidentiality in privacy, in which users are largely oblivious. Individual information can be obtained for the use of phone functions during app permissions.”

Sounds familiar, but there is more:

“This may include access to users’ contact lists, emails and calendars rather than an app developer and sought by the ad network. Then they can collect personalized user data to serve targeted advertising, but other ad networks Can also sell online businesses. ”

User not in contract

To get a better idea of ​​where the users are standing on this issue, I am a well-known privacy expert at Stanford Law School and Director of Privacy Dr. Alessia talked to McDonald.

McDonald’s said that he highlighted three separate groups, each with a different opinion on privacy, versus targeted advertising. The first group, which was responsible for about 20 percent of the people in the study, wanted the benefits of targeted advertising.

“They want advertisements that are relevant to them. In fact, people were quite curious,” said McDonald. “However, when asked, they did not understand the implications of privacy, and mistakenly assumed that their privacy is protected by laws that are not present.

“On the other hand, 20 percent of the study participants were very concerned about secrecy, and they recovered their data from the idea of ​​going out to advertisers.”

For the last 60 percent of respondents in the study, McDonald’s says,

“I consider them as a swing voter of the targeted advertisement. We had heard that, ‘When I ignore something, why would I want a better ad?’ This group does not see any benefit from advertisers giving their data. ”

Privacy options

If the free smartphone apps are not free, then what are the other options? The truth is that some precious options are available. By installing a paid version of the app, you will avoid targeted advertising, but data collection can still be allowed. Until some changes, you have to read the EULA and privacy documents to be sure. And remember, even the free app comes at a price.

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