Last Updated 3 weeks by Emily Standley-Allard

Are your apps secretly tracking and spying on you? Here’s ways to stop them.

Photo by Rob Hampson on Unsplash 

Are our apps listening to our conversations? They certainly seem to know what’s going on in our lives and what we’re most interested in.

Our smartphones today have become an extension of ourselves, housing a wealth of personal information, from our current locations to our daily habits. 

However, as consumers grow increasingly wary of data breaches and privacy violations, the question arises: how can we discern if an app is surreptitiously spying on us? 

If you find yourself also asking the same question, you are not alone. 

In the UK, about eight out of 10 consumers in 2022 said they were concerned about how their data was being used when they were online. An overwhelming 95 percent of them said they felt that their data should be protected.

And it’s not just UK consumers.

According to a 2023 study, about eight out of 10 Americans say they were concerned about how businesses use the data collected from them. The same study also said that about seven out of 10 Americans believe that they have little or no control over the data businesses collect about them.

With data breaches and privacy violations making headlines, it’s crucial to be vigilant and aware of the signs that an app may be covertly collecting your information without your consent.

Ethan Bennet from Sonin delves into the telltale signs of app surveillance and provides practical tips to help you identify and mitigate potential privacy risks.

Excessive Battery Drain

Spy apps can significantly drain your battery as they often run in the background, continuously collecting and sending data. 

“Apps that are constantly pinging servers or uploading data can drain your battery quickly,” Ethan warns. 

If you notice a sudden drop in your battery life, it could be due to a rogue app.

Ethan’s Tip: Check your battery usage statistics. On both iOS and Android, you can view which apps are consuming the most battery. 

If an app is disproportionately draining your battery, it’s wise to uninstall it or investigate further.

Unexplained Data Usage

One of the primary indicators that an app may be spying on you is unusually high data usage. 

“If an app is using more data than expected, it’s a red flag,” cautions Ethan.

Apps that transmit large amounts of data without your knowledge could be sending your personal information to third parties. Apps that collect and transmit data will often consume more bandwidth than expected. 

To monitor this, check your phone’s data usage statistics regularly. If an app you seldom use is consuming a significant amount of data, it could be a red flag.

Ethan’s Tip: Use data monitoring tools provided by your smartphone’s OS. Android and iOS both offer built-in options to track data usage. 

Consider using third-party apps like My Data Manager to keep an eye on your data consumption. If an app’s data usage seems excessive, consider uninstalling it.

Overheating Phone

While it’s normal for phones to get warm during heavy usage, consistent overheating could indicate that an app is running in the background, potentially spying on you.

Ethan’s Tip: Close apps running in the background and restart your device. 

If the problem persists, review your installed apps and consider removing those that seem suspicious.

Intrusive Permissions

Be wary of apps that request excessive permissions, such as access to your contacts, location, or microphone, without a legitimate reason. Apps requesting permissions unrelated to their functionality can be a major red flag. 

For instance, a simple flashlight app should not need access to your contacts, camera, or microphone.

“Apps should only ask you for permissions that they really need in order to run,” advises Ethan.

Ethan’s Tip: Always scrutinize the permissions an app requests during installation. 

Both Android and iOS allow you to manage app permissions from the settings menu. 

Revoke permissions that seem unnecessary for the app’s primary function.

Suspicious Behavior

Unexpected behavior such as pop-up ads, redirected searches, or unfamiliar apps appearing on your device can indicate that spyware or adware has been installed.

“Unusual app behavior should never be ignored,” warns Ethan.

Ethan’s Tip: Run a security scan using reputable antivirus software like Avast or Bitdefender. These tools can help detect and remove malicious apps.

Uninstall any apps exhibiting suspicious behavior and report them to the app store.

Safeguarding Your Digital Privacy

In addition to identifying potential app spies, it’s crucial to take proactive measures to protect your online privacy. 

  • Regular Updates: Keep your apps and operating system up to date. Updates usually include the app security patches that can protect you against vulnerabilities.
  • Use Strong Passwords: Use unique, complex passwords for different accounts. Consider a password manager to keep track of them.
  • Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): Wherever possible, enable 2FA for an added layer of security.
  • Be Cautious with Public Wi-Fi: Avoid accessing sensitive information over public Wi-Fi networks. Use a VPN for an added layer of protection.
  • Review Privacy Settings: Regularly review and adjust the privacy settings on your social media accounts and devices.

“Protecting your privacy online requires vigilance and an understanding of the tools at your disposal,” says Ethan. “By being proactive in the apps you use, you can significantly mitigate the risk or issues of your data being misused.”

About Sonin

Sonin is a UK-based agency specializing in mobile-first solutions. Their approach emphasizes understanding clients’ needs, close collaboration, and staying ahead with emerging technologies. With a diverse team passionate about technology and user-centric products, Sonin focuses on building valuable, high-quality experiences for their clients.

Methodology

The 2022 data on UK consumers and data came from privacy-first search platform Motive.co.

The 2023 data on American consumers and data came from Pew Research Center.

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