Can you do anything about the countless apps that record and track your personal data? Did the world make a mistake when we started using smartphones and apps in return for giving up every inch of ourselves to companies?
The EU has recently told Google that the company has to remove any links residents consider to be too personal, but there’s very little you can do about those pesky apps on your phone that are tracking your data – or is there?
There are some other apps (ones that don’t track your data, I hope) that can tell you which apps you need to get rid of, protect you against the apps that are already mining your phone details, and which apps to avoid completely. Then there are those apps that will encrypt everything you write, so that you can speak your mind without paranoia lurking. Put down your phone (or pick it up) and install these apps right away to keep some of what you hold dear actually private.
For iPhone Users: Cryptocat
Cryptocat is a free iPhone app. As a writer and sometimes journalist, this is an app that I use regularly because I can never be too careful, and neither can you. Cryptocat won’t let any chat program record anything that you type or write. You can join a conversation or group, say what you want, and not worry about anything you type remaining on your phone or in a company’s chat history for decades. How does it work?
Cryptocat encrypts every message separately, so nothing you write will be recorded as is. This means that if someone tries to decrypt your messages, they will have to use individual decryption programs to get at what you originally said. See how complicated that could be? What can other people note when you use Cryptocat? Basically, the app lets people know that your chat messages are encrypted, but that won’t do anyone any good if they are actually trying to read what you wrote.
For Android Users: TextSecure
TextSecure claims that the app never records any user data. Additionally, any text sent won’t be recorded. This app uses end to end encryption technology to make sure that anything you write stays between you and the person you’re communicating with. As with Cryptocat, anything that you do add to a conversation won’t be recorded anywhere. Plus, TextSecure makes it possible to avoid SMS fees, send file attachments, and other goodies. TextSecure is free through Google Play.
A note about Google Play: if you do have an Android device, the best place to find apps isn’t through Google Play. Use F-Droid instead. F-Droid is the secure version of Google Play (it’s also a non for profit organization that is run entirely by volunteers!) that will prevent you from downloading any infected apps, and it’s one of the most popular options amongst Android users. If you haven’t checked it out yet, make sure to do so. The downside? Google won’t back up your apps. But, there are worse things, right? Like, you know, privacy invasion and bugs!
If you are texting and you do use a bunch of apps, make sure that checking out one of these programs protects you. Apps that Windows users should be using is coming up in a future article (and what the heck, I’ll throw BlackBerry in there too), so stay tuned.