How to Keep Your Data Private While Using Mobile Apps

Russell Kent-Payne

By Russell Kent-Payne


In today’s connected world, our smartphones are central to our daily lives, functioning not just as communication tools but also as repositories of a vast amount of personal data.

From social media applications to financial management tools, each app can potentially access a wealth of information about us. Protecting this data is crucial, not only to maintain privacy but also to safeguard against potential cyber threats

Here are some strategies to help you keep your personal information private while enjoying the benefits of mobile apps.

1. Be Careful What Permissions You Grant

Nowadays, apps usually need to ask permission before accessing private data on our devices. However, we’re so used to multiple messages popping up when we first install an app that it’s not unusual to just accept without thinking about it. But this can be a way to inadvertently open up our data to prying eyes.

Be selective about what permissions you grant to an app. For example, if an app requests permission to access your contacts or photos and it’s not obvious why, deny it. You can always go back and allow it later if it’s required.

2. Limit the Information You Provide

If the app requires you to sign-up or enter personal information, it is a good idea to retain certain information if it is not a mandatory field. The more information an app has about you, the more that could potentially fall into the wrong hands in the event of a data breach.

If you are unsure and don’t want to provide your email address, there are many services, such as Apple’s Hide My Email, that allow you to create a unique, random email address that forwards to your real one.

3. Be Mindful of What You Post

This is especially important when using social media apps. Do not post any private information that could compromise your privacy. For example, don’t post any photos with your address visible.

You also don’t want to be trackable so avoid uploading too many posts, check-ins or photos that reveal your location as this could allow an unwanted third party to build up a picture of your daily routine.

4. Check Your Privacy Settings

Most apps allow you to change your privacy settings in order to limit the information that is shared within the app, with the app developer, or with other third-party companies. For example many apps will allow you to opt-out of using your information for targeted advertising.

By regularly reviewing and adjusting your privacy settings, you ensure that apps access only the data they need, thereby minimizing your digital footprint and the risks associated with unwanted data sharing.

5. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

A VPN encrypts your internet connection, which helps protect your personal information from hackers, especially when using public Wi-Fi networks.

By routing your traffic through a secure server, a VPN ensures that your data, including your location and browsing habits, is hidden from third parties. This is particularly useful for safeguarding data sent and received through apps that require an internet connection.

Wrapping Up

By adopting these practices, you can significantly enhance your data privacy on mobile apps. It’s about being proactive and mindful of the permissions you grant, the information you share, and the settings you choose.

Protecting your personal data doesn’t mean you have to stop using your favorite apps, but it does mean taking the time to make informed decisions about how your information is used and shared.

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What should I do if an app I’m using has a data breach?

Change any passwords associated with the account immediately. If possible, use multi-factor authentication for added security. Monitor your accounts for any unusual activity and consider using a credit monitoring service if financial information was involved.

How often should I check app permissions and privacy settings?

It’s a good practice to review these settings every few months or whenever an app is updated. App updates can sometimes reset permissions to defaults, so it’s important to regularly ensure that your settings reflect your privacy preferences.

Can I block tracking completely on my phone?

While you cannot block tracking entirely without significantly limiting the functionality of your phone, you can minimize it by disabling location services, adjusting your ad tracking settings, and using privacy-focused apps and browsers.

What is the safest way to download apps?

Always download apps from trusted sources such as the Google Play Store or Apple App Store. These platforms generally vet apps for security risks before making them available to the public. Avoid downloading apps from third-party sources as they are more likely to contain malicious software.