How to know if your smartphone apps are tracking you - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

How to know if your smartphone apps are tracking you

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(WFLX) - How many apps do you have on your smartphone? The average American has about 32! Many applications have access to your social media accounts, your location and other personal information.

If you're not sure you want to share all of that, it might be time to do some spring cleaning with your tech.

Here's how you can tell what apps and services are accessing your data.

Like many of us, Caryn Bailey keeps lots of photos in her phone. She often deletes unused apps to make room for pictures, but she didn't worry about any other implications, like her privacy, until recently. "Twitter sent me a message, and told me that one of the apps that is connected to Twitter was actually hacked, and so somebody had compromised my password. So I had to reset my password. It was a little bit unnerving."

Unnerving because it reminded her some apps she downloads have permission to access her social media, her contacts and other personal information. "I should probably go through that list and start removing permissions."

Experts say going through all your apps and taking a look at what you've given them permission to see, save and send to others is one step you should take as part of a regular "spring cleaning" of your tech.

"You do have control over applications. The access that you're granting that application -- to your personal information, to your location, to your contacts -- take the time to understand that and then decide what you're most comfortable with," said John Walls with CTIA.

"With some apps, it's the developers that have access to this information, and with other apps they actually have agreements with third parties, whether data brokers or advertising companies where they send this information to them," said Adi Kamdar, Electronic Frontier Foundation.

In reviewing all your apps, Kamdar says you should delete anything you don't use. He says spring cleaning should happen often. "Go through your apps, maybe once a month or so, and figure out, do I still need this? The apps that you don't use anymore may still be collecting information about you whether you know it or not. Sometimes these apps run in the background."

If you're concerned about permanently deleting an application you paid for, Kamdar says, not to worry. "Usually when you buy an app or when you install an app, you have it forever on the store, so you can just download it again without paying any more."

While you're purging apps, John Walls of the Wireless Industry Association says it's always a smart practice to change your passwords. "It's good to have that backup protection. These days, you know, we have so much personal information in our devices. They're carrying our life story basically."

As for Caryn, she is all for cleaning up her phone and making space for more of what she actually uses. "There's some apps that I downloaded, like when I first joined Twitter, so those apps I don't even hear about anymore and I probably should nix them."

Experts say, when you download new app,s pay attention to what permissions they're requesting and be sure to understand exactly what you're giving the application access to.

Also, while you're "spring cleaning" you're tech, it's a good time to review your contacts list and get rid of anything you no longer need.

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