What the Tech? Apps that track - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

What the Tech? Apps that track

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Think for a second about all of the information on your smartphone.

Pretty much everything you need, want and use. Your friends names, email addresses, addresses, phone numbers, your email, websites you visit, places you've gone. It's all on that device.

Now what if that information falls into the wrong hands?

If you've downloaded an app, especially a free game, consider all of that information as gone.

Apps that are free typically earn revenue for the app developer by gathering, storing and sharing information from the person downloading the app.

It's right there in the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy listed (sometimes) in the App Store.

Not that anyone ever reads them. I asked Chance Allsup who plays some free games on his phone. "I think I did it once and that was about 6 years ago," he said. "They make it 6 or 7 pages long and this generation is moving at a million miles an hour and no one reads it anymore."

We read them for you and found most apps require the same information. Names, phone numbers, email address, physical address, access to contacts, tracking ability of websites and your physical location. Others require access to your camera and microphone.

Why? Advertising. If the app developers don't charge anything for the app they're selling the users information to advertisers and other 3rd party companies. The trouble is, you don't know which companies and you don't know what they're doing with your information.

Equally troubling is how these apps gather that information on anyone downloading the app, even children.

Most app developers will say in their Terms of Service and Privacy Policy that it does not seek information from anyone under the age of 13. The issue then is how does the app developer know if the person downloading the app is 55 or 5? They don't.

Parents who suspect their kids' information is being tracked can contact the app developer to have it removed and anyone uncomfortable with giving up their personal information can opt out, but that takes some extra steps that aren't always easily found on the developer website.

There's a saying in the tech world that if the product is free, then YOU are the product.

It's especially true for free games found in the App Stores.

If it's troubling to you, take the time to read the Terms of Service and if you don't like it, don't download and use the app.

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