Wednesday, 09 December 2015 22:35

Be wary of free app downloads warns the ACMA


Should you be wary of the consequences of downloading free apps? The Australian Communication and Media Authority thinks so and has warned about the sharing and spreading of your private and personal information around the Internet when you download the apps.

Take note, the ACMA's warning is worth heeding, with 93% of we Aussies estimated to download free apps in 2016, along with more than 210 billion free apps being downloaded worldwide next year.

As the ACMA explains, before downloading a free Android or iOS app, you typically have to first agree to certain permission requests.

These requests are usually a take-it or leave-it proposition—you can either choose to accept permissions and install the app, or not accept and the app won’t be installed.

And, this is where the unwary need to be cautious, the ACMA warns.

“Agreeing to permission requests may actually mean certain types of data will be collected about you and shared among a number of third-party websites,” the ACMA says.

The data which being collected could include:

•    Personal information—such as your email address, name, home address or phone information (e.g. your IMEI)  

•    Behavioural information—such as your username, employment details, friend connections, search history or medical information

•    Location information—such as using your current GPS coordinates for tracking.

Also, according to the ACMA, Android apps are more likely to share personal information with 3.1 websites on average - typically Google and Facebook ad network-related - and iOS apps are more likely to share location information with 2.6 websites on average - typically Apple and Yahoo ad network-related.

So, if the AAMCA’s warning has you worried about downloading free apps, here’s what the authority advises you to do. It’s simple, common sense!:

“Before downloading a free app, make sure you read the permission request information to ensure you’re comfortable with what you’re agreeing to.

“As you can see, by agreeing to certain app permission requests, you may be sharing your personal, behavioural and/or location data with a number of third-party websites”.

For further information on the potential hazards of downloading free apps, and to read the ACMA blog – how to be happy with your appsclick here.
Or, for general tips and useful information about mobile apps, click here to see the ACMA’s Apps & in-apps purchases: a guide for consumers, and click here to see the Stay Smart Online Alert: Minimise the information you provide to applications on social media.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired in 2020. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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