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Cybersecurity

Mobile apps want access to everything. Don't just "agree.”

Apps often ask for more user information than they need. Be selective about what you allow.


By law, mobile apps must ask for your permission to access information stored on your digital device(s). However, they’re free to ask for more of your private data than they need to function smoothly.

Startlingly, most people give mobile apps unfettered access to the personal data stored on their device: According to a Pew Research Center survey, only about one in five American adults say they always read a company’s privacy policy before agreeing to it.1

Yet, to skip reading the fine print is to magnify the risk of having your personal information exposed, lost or stolen.

The best way to protect your digital privacy is to selectively limit the permission you grant each app currently on your mobile device(s). (For example, you might allow a social media app to access your photo library but not your calendar or contacts directory.)

Answering the six questions below can help you get started:

1. What am I risking?

Potentially, a lot.

To bolster revenues, most apps sell their users’ likes/dislikes, location data, shopping preferences and other personal information to a vast array of third-party outlets. For example, to vendors who use the information for targeted or location-based advertising purposes.

As your data is sold and resold, your potential exposure to identity theft and fraud increases.

Data privacy tip: Before you download an app, read its privacy policy to understand what information the app will be able to access and how it will be used and/or shared. Review your account settings for each app currently on your device(s), and repeat the process each time it updates its software/services.

2. Aren’t all permission requests the same?

No. Some apps genuinely need access to various parts of your device. Others overreach to bolster their own bottom lines.

For example, to post photos on popular social media platforms or scan QR codes, you’ll need to grant access to your camera or photo library. But what else are they asking for?

By granting permission that’s overly broad, you open the door to your personal information being bought and sold in an endless chain of third-party transactions—potentially ending up in the hands of fraudsters.

Data privacy tip: Be mindful of the broad implications of allowing an app to access your location, camera, photo library or other personal details. 

3. What if I don’t understand the fine print?

Take your time to consider what an app is asking permission for—and be guided by common sense:

  • You know why a ride-sharing app needs access to your location and your phone number. But why should they have access to your camera or calendar?
  • Be mindful of how much of your data privacy you are putting at risk in exchange for a small convenience, such as receiving personalized alerts.
  • A voice recording app needs access to your microphone, but a game app? Remember: Any app that has access to your microphone can potentially listen to what you're saying and doing at any time.

Keep in mind: Granting broad access to your private information may impair how well your mobile device functions. For example, your device’s storage space may quickly fill up; its battery life may be shortened; or the operating system’s speed may slow. Uninstalling apps you no longer use may help boost your device’s overall performance.

Data privacy tip: Only download apps from your device’s official app store. This will help reduce the risk of installing malware. Also, keep your device’s operating system up to date by downloading security updates and patches as they are released.

4. Who needs to track my location?

Increasingly, location-tracking software applications are invading our lives. While identifying your location may be helpful in certain circumstances, routinely exposing your whereabouts and location patterns can put you or your loved ones at risk—physically, reputationally and/or financially.

A key way to stop your device from tracking your every move: Go to your device's Settings, on an Apple device turn off Significant Locations or on an Android/Google device turn off Location History. Instructions vary, according to the operating system installed.

Data privacy tip: After adjusting your settings, go through your mobile apps one at a time and adjust your permissions to your level of risk comfort.

5. Should I worry if my mobile device broadcasts my name?

Yes. It’s one more way personal information is exposed.

Your name/device name appears in your settings. If it’s innocuous (“phone” or “tablet,” for example), your identity is secure. However, if your device’s name is directly associated with you, you’re vulnerable to hackers finding out who you are.

Data privacy tip: Rename your device to make it non-identifiable.

We can help

Contact your J.P. Morgan team to learn more about our cybersecurity and fraud awareness programs, or if you would like to schedule a session with one of our cybersecurity experts. You can also learn more about cybersecurity and fraud prevention here.


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