Your iPhone lets companies steal your phone number - and much more - while you sleep
More than 5,400 trackers were caught mining data from a single phone in just one week
By installing a monitoring device, the Post's journalist discovered his apps were passing on information - home address, mobile service provider, which other apps he had on his phone etc - to thousands of third parties including Spotify, Nike, Microsoft’s One Drive, Yelp, IBM's Weather Channel and The Washington Post app itself. Lol.
“Your phone is constantly talking to the trackers and sending data. This is your data and it’s leaving your phone for a purpose that doesn’t benefit you,” said Patrick Jackson, chief technology officer of the monitoring device company Disconnect.
What is an app tracker anyway?
It's like a cookie on websites (honestly can't go into that now - read here) - they slow load times, waste battery life and cause those creepy ads to follow you around the Internet. Except with app trackers, you don't know they are there and you can’t choose a different browser to block them.
Why do they operate mostly at night?
App makers design them to call when your phone is plugged in, invariably as you sleep, because tracking uses up lots of battery life. Or when they think they won’t interfere with other functions. These midnight rendezvous take place on an iPhone if you have allowed “background app refresh”. Guess what? That's an Apple default mode. If you can find it, turn it off now. And switch your phone off at night - data can't be sent from a phone's that off.
And all that personal data ends up where?
In the hands of those who bombard you with marketing and political messaging. Like when you suddenly get a text - A PERSONAL TEXT - from a company you've never heard of. So annoying. In 2019, data is hugely valuable to any company. The Cambridge Analytica fiasco proved just how our data can be stolen and abused. As Patrick Jackson says: "If we don’t know where our data is going, how can we ever hope to keep it private?"
Apple is not doing enough to stop it
The world's most valuable company (about $1 trillion) offers a privacy setting called “Limit Ad Tracking” which is again off by default. Make it harder for companies to steal your data by switching it on right now. It's easy. Just go to Settings>Privacy (at the end of the "General" section)>advertising (hidden right at the bottom)>Limit Ad tracking. Switch that green button ON. At least Apple believes kids are worth protecting - last week it implemented a new ban on third-party tracking for children's apps. Big of them.
And it's not just iPhones
Trackers also love phones running Google’s Android. Disconnect, which exposed the story for the Washington Post, has a tracker-protection software app and yet Google won’t even let that app onto its Play Store. Google's rules 'prohibit' any apps that might interfere with another app displaying ads. Obvs.
All about the money, honey.
We are all partly to blame
We blithely click AGREE AGREE AGREE to cookies and privacy policies. Last week a survey of 2,500 consumers revealed that while 69% of us know we should regularly change our passwords for each online account, only 40% of us actually do it (that many?)
Less than one in five consumers bother reading those privacy notices on websites.