Consumer Protection

Mobile Apps


More than 60 percent of all Americans own a smart phone. Just about everyone who owns one will download one or more “apps,” or software applications, that will allow their phones to perform such functions as accessing turn-by-turn directions, looking up telephone numbers or making the next move in a video game.

Tips:

  • When installing an app for your device, remember that not all apps can be used on all devices, so when you buy a certain brand of phone, you are limited to that operating system and the apps that go with it. If you have a particular app in mind, ask whether it will run on the phone you are considering.
  • Pay attention when you are downloading an app, as you frequently will be asked for permission by the company to download information from your device. According to the Federal Trade Commission, some apps will be able to access your phone and email contacts, call logs, texts, internet data, calendar data, data about the device’s location, the device’s unique identifiers and information about how you use the app. Some companies may share your information with other companies. Once an app has your permission to access your location information, it can continue to do so unless you change your phone’s settings.
  • Most mobile device owners will not always be able to tell what data is going to be accessed when they download an app, so it is important for you to consider who created the app and what it does. If the app store does not supply information about the company that developed the app, the app may not be trustworthy.
  • Some hackers have created apps that can infect phones and mobile devices with “malware,” or software including spyware, viruses and phishing scams. Malware can result in emails or texts from your phone that you did not actually send, the download of apps you did not select or charges for services you did not purchase.
  • If you notice malware on your phone, contact customer support for the company that made your device, call your mobile phone service carrier or install a security app to scan and remove malware apps.
  • When apps offer upgrades, be sure to install them as they may have the latest security patches to protect your information.

Free apps

When you go to the online app store, you will discover that many apps are offered for free. According to OnGuard Online, a service of the Federal Trade Commission, here’s how that can happen:

  • Some companies sell advertising space within the app.
  • Some offer the basic version of their app for free, hoping you will like it enough to pay for an upgrade of the app that includes additional features.
  • Some companies will sell individual features within the app itself.
  • Some apps are simply used as advertising to interest you in a company’s other products.
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