App Developer's 5 Tips That You Might Not Know About Online Privacy

April 9, 2018

At Web Experts we have relations with all of our clients that extend far beyond completing tasks. They know they can call us and chat about anything. With privacy being in the headlines, we have had a large number of clients concerned about securing their users data and creating apps that treat users information more responsibly. This is a great movement and we think more companies should be focusing on how to create the most secure experience for their users.

Many people who use the internet don't understand that nothing is free. The information that many of these social media platforms and search engines gather is their currency. The dangers of letting advertisers build profiles on you has increased, but has been present long before the internet was around. I personally worked at a credit card processing company in the 80's that aggregated data on consumer spending habits and sold this information without you checking a check box saying you didn't mind giving it away.

While writing this article a friend said to me that they didn't mind advertisers knowing about them and they liked having ads more targeted towards their needs. While this may be okay for some users, others don't want companies knowing what they like and don't like because it might allow bad actors to manipulate you in ways that might not be obvious and have malicious intent.

Trying to get offline after you have used a search engine, purchased something online, or checked you liked a friends post is akin to opening an umbrella in a hurricane. You may have friends that have threatened to delete their social media profiles. While this may provide a dramatic flair, it does very little to secure what you have already shared and liked.

We thought we would try and educate internet users with a few tips they might not have thought about, since privacy and online security has turned into a national topic. We tried to pick 5 tips that other people might not have thought about and while some of these tips fly right in the face of web and app development, we believe that there will always be room for ethical programmers and businesses (like that are built around not egregiously invading their users privacy.

And now for the tips:

  1. Delete All Your Old Emails
    Leaving your emails located any online platform provides an element of unnecessary risk. Many large email providers get hacked and many hosting providers can be compromised. When the hackers have access to your account they are able to view all the emails that are being stored online. The best thing to do is to have a empty inbox, sent folder, spam folder, draft folder, and archive folder. Many large email providers will encourage you to archive your emails. Archiving emails is not the same as deleting emails. Remember that your trash needs to be emptied as well. I personally had to write scripts to delete emails from old accounts because many large email providers won't make it easy for you to delete more than 100 emails at a time.

  2. Never accept invites from people you wouldn't let into your house
    A simple rule is to not accept invites from people on your social media platforms you haven't met face to face. This includes business based social media platforms, where client poaching is a popular tactic. Many of these social media companies also encourage you to upload or integrate your contacts during the signup process. Do not do this! Do you want every contact on your phone to know every detail about your life, your friends, or your family? While people know that they shouldn't open emails from strangers, it is surprising to see how many people don't know the dangers of accepting people into their online circle of trust.

  3. Never check you like anything
    Back in the golden days of business, organizations used to use research companies to provide them feedback on products, movies, or ideas. Now all they have to do is pay social media company to learn everything they need to know about you, how to get you to spend your hard earned money or what is on your mind. This may come as a shock to some, but you can use social media passively. The owners of these platforms will not enjoy that you aren't clicking you like or don't like certain posts. Movie companies won't be happy you aren't going to check you like a movie or that you don't review it. They will probably move towards tracking your mouse movements on the page (something that can be done pretty easily). But by not giving away your opinion on how you feel about things, you will greatly minimize your social media footprint.

  4. Don't use mobile apps if you can help it
    This one is a kicker... We build mobile apps and have done so for some very large corporations but we always try to explain to our customers the responsibility they have to protect the incredible amount of information that is obtained by installing a mobile app on a users device. Mobile apps are better than mobile friendly websites because the developer knows the other apps that are installed, the exact information about your hardware, and what other programs you are running. The same things that make mobile apps better for the responsible company and developers involved are also the same things that make them more invasive than people might realize. Irresponsible companies can build a great marketing profile of you based on the apps you have installed and which apps you use the most. Denying an app permission to know your location or having access to your contacts is one thing, but understanding the permissions that apps have without having to ask you for them is another. Be aware of the companies who you are installing apps from and educate yourself on their privacy policies.

  5. Never use social media logins
    While it might be convenient to have your logins handled by social media platforms, this convenience comes at a price. These logins will help the social media platforms understand you better, which isn't the goal for people looking to take back some of their online privacy. Using these social media logins gives these companies access to your internet and web experience when you are not using their apps. Grab a password program and go back to using different email accounts for different logins. While this may be a hassle, it will help minimize your exposure online.

We hope these five points help users understand a few tips that might not be obvious. We recommend deleting anyone from your social media platform that you don't personally know and locking down all your profiles through the platforms security settings. There are many articles written about this topic and we recommend you follow those guidelines that allow you to stay in touch with people you know, while keeping what advertisers know to a minimum.