Data Privacy

How Much of Your Data Are You Letting Apps Sell?

NBC 7 Responds looked at how much information is voluntarily handed to companies, which can then sell that information to data brokers

NBC Universal, Inc.

Do you know how much information your apps are collecting about you? It can be search history, what time you're online, even location data.

Sometimes it's hard to tell where your personal data goes, but usually consumers have agreed to hand it all over. While some apps and companies keep that data for their own use, others sell it to data brokers, who can sell it to anyone else interested.

"Data brokers are, in essence, the ghost in the machine," said James Lee, COO at the Identity Theft Resource Center. "We don't directly interact with them. They don't directly interact with us."

Lee said a good rule of thumb is to assume that any information handed over to a company could end up somewhere else.

"It’s rarely the case that information you voluntarily give is protected," Lee said. "Buried in the fine print you never read, you’re giving permission to organizations to collect your information."

After Roe v Wade was overturned, many people started asking about the threat to privacy from this data collection. Some people started deleting apps, while others took a closer look at what information they were handing over.

Lee says that's a good place to start. App stores like Apple and Google Play summarize what information an app wants to collect and what it does with your information. Even if it's an app you already use, checking the store's summary is a good place to start.

There are good uses for this information too. For example, sharing your driving record with an insurance company can help you get a discount. Lee says that's why it's most important to know what your information is being used for.

"Do I know what information is being collected, do I know who’s collecting it, do I know how it’s being used and do I know who is using it?" asked Lee. "If you can answer all of those questions you can make an informed decision."

There are also more federal protections coming. President Biden's Executive Order signed earlier this month directed federal agencies to put protections in place for health-related data.

But where does that leave you? Should you delete apps? Lee says do what makes you comfortable.

"If you are concerned that your information is going to be used against you at some point and you don’t need that app, you may be better off just deleting it," said Lee.

Even if you aren't worried your information could be used in a case against you, it's a good idea to look at the apps you use regularly and what data they are collecting. If you have apps you don't use anymore, delete them! Sometimes they will still collect information on you in the background.

"Just think, how important is that convenience to me?" asked Lee.

Contact Us