App users opening the gates to data mining: McAfee

As Privacy Awareness Week kicks off, new research shows that many Android users are giving apps access to their personal information – whether they know it or not.

At the launch of Privacy Awareness Week, new research shows that a large proportion of Australian Android users are allowing apps to access their personal information — whether they know it or not.

(Credit: McAfee)

The research — conducted in February 2014 by internet security provider McAfee — shows that more than a third of Australians are allowing apps to access information such as contacts and photos. According to McAfee, 82 per cent of mobile apps read and collect user information as well as "tracking when users use Wi-Fi, data networks, current and historic locations and when devices are switched on".

McAfee's chief privacy officer Michelle Dennedy said that, although most apps are safe, some have a "covert mission to collect and share information on users".

"When a user gives an app access to information stored on their phones, it's important to consider exactly what information that app should realistically need in order to operate — for example when downloading a game, think whether the app really needs access to your contacts," she said.

According to the McAfee Mobile Security Report (February 2014) and McAfee's Love, Relationships & Technology research (February 2014), app users are opening up like never before.

What app users are allowing:

  • 51 per cent of mobile users allow apps to access their photos
  • 43 per cent allow access to personal contact information
  • 38 per cent allow access to their phone's contact list
  • 68 per cent allow access to their location

What apps are collecting:

  • 64 per cent of mobile apps know a user's wireless carrier
  • 59 per cent track the user's last known location
  • 26 per cent know a device's SIM card number
  • 26 per cent of apps monitor and transmit details of other apps that a user opens

Brands are also accessing user information in order to target their services, according to an October 2013 report on Community Attitudes to Privacy from the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC).

This report found that 34 per cent of Australians would give up their personal details online "in return for a better, more detailed service" while 28 per cent would share information in exchange for a discount and 14 per cent would share their details for a prize.

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