November 21, 2019, 8:00am

Concerned About App Safety? 3 Tips for Protecting Privacy

Himanshu Dwivedi
By Himanshu Dwivedi

Data Theorem

Regulating your child’s technology use while still protecting their privacy is a fine balance for most parents. As kids age—and especially as they enter their teenage years—they’ll increasingly use apps for everything from connecting with friends to practicing math to playing games. But how do you ensure that they can navigate their online world without divulging too much about themselves? While there’s no right answer, you can take some proactive measures to understand more about what types of information apps are accessing—and how to restrict it when necessary.

Apps, apps and more apps

For many in the security world, the idea of providing an app with your real information is as nerve wracking as offering up your social security number to a scammer on the phone. However, Generation Z has grown up online and their real-life and digital identities are very much connected. They want their friends to be able to find them on specific apps—and they want to find people they know.

What’s more, the world of apps accessible to them grows by the day. Parents certainly have tools for monitoring device use as well as tracking what their teens have downloaded. But new apps gain traction seemingly overnight—and suddenly that’s where everyone wants to be. Consider that TikTok launched three years ago and now has 500 million users.

More than simply denoting which apps your child is allowed on now, you want tools for assessing the safety and privacy of apps that may be tomorrow’s next big thing.

Your app privacy toolbox

When it comes to privacy, not all apps are created equal. And not all individuals have the same privacy requirements and needs. You and your child can decide what levels of information you’re comfortable sharing with third-parties and what data you’d like to keep private. Where ever you land, a key component of this equation is understanding how individual apps treat security and what they do with your data.

Here are three ways to learn more about the apps your child is using and then make them safer:

1. Download Am I Safe? Data Theorem created this app to help consumers assess the safety of their apps. You can download Am I Safe from Google Play and then search for specific applications. The results will provide you a percentage safety rating—0 through 100%. Ratings above 50% indicate that the app likely has defensive coding and proactive security in place. We’ve chosen those metrics because we’ve found that when apps have both of those, that means someone at their company is thinking about security; that’s good news for consumers. The app will also send push notification if your device has been compromised or you’ve downloaded an app that is not secure.

2. Adjust their privacy settings. You can also protect your child’s information via their device. Start by going to the privacy settings on their iPhone, and review which apps are accessing data. Then select which you’d like to keep and which ones you’d rather not provide with information about your child. Additionally, you can limit ad tracking within your privacy settings. After doing so, the phone sends a signal to apps that says “don’t track me.” While companies aren’t legally required to abide by your request, if Apple discovers that a company has ignored such directions, it will remove the app from its store.

3. Reset the advertising identifier. The iPhone privacy settings also offer a clickable button that says “reset advertising identifier.” This allows you to reset the ID for the phone, so that any advertisers that have been following the device can’t connect it across your child’s other social networks and apps. Once reset, the phone appears to advertisers as a brand new device—disconnected from yours or your child’s old ID. Unfortunately, there’s no way to automate this, so proactive parents may ask their child to reset their advertising identifier monthly or even weekly.

Take the time to understand privacy issues related to apps and the actions you can take to protect your kids. A little effort goes a long way toward improving online safety, while still allowing your children to take advantage of the applications that meet their needs.

Interested in learning more about app security? Watch our full webinar on Kids, Privacy, and Apps or connect with us for free report.

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