As mobile technology evolves, location-based mobile phone applications pose a growing threat to user privacy. Novelty value alone might encourage people to unwittingly offer information on their whereabouts, and to permit apps to share this with a host of other users.
With mobile dating apps like Flirtomatic among the most popular, Lloyd Borrett of AVG (AU/NZ) says location-based apps will continue to diversify. “We predict that within five years you’ll be able to find someone on a dating site and send her (with her permission) real flowers immediately to wherever she is.
“Far fetched? Invasion of privacy? Consider that since your phone knows where you are, it becomes the most effective delivery address you can imagine,” said Borrett. “Your address is your phone, which is where you are. But only if you want it to be.”
Flirtomatic alone recorded over half a billion “flirts” sent during 2010, about 285 messages per user. While posting your location online may seem harmless, here are some common sense tips to limit risk:
- Check the source: Only install apps from a trustworthy source, much like buying from a shop or using a bank account. Apps in the Apple store are rigorously checked, while the Android Marketplace is more open with its screening policy.
- Check for hidden charges: Know what you’re getting into before downloading an app and be wary of “free” apps.
- Check your settings: Make sure the app is only using information you want to share.
- Turn it off: Turning off the GPS functionality when you’re not using it will ensure your privacy is protected. Delete apps no longer in use.
- Use protection: Having an up-to-date anti-virus on your phone will keep malicious software from sharing information you want to keep private.