Friday, May 8, 2015

Safety First!

Did you know that your location might have been shared over 5,000 times in the past two weeks? A study from Cult of Mac has revealed that when using a smartphone it can be very difficult to keep all of your data private. In the recent past, laptops and computers have been the target of hackers, but now the criminals have moved on to an easier target-the smartphone. It is very easy for them to get into your contacts and private info purely based on the fact that we use it for so many things now, from transferring money to sending private work emails. The smartphone is still developing and there are many flaws with the security precautions. Hackers aren’t the only concern to smartphone users when it comes to protecting your private information. App producers are notorious for taking advantage of the security and privacy settings on their specific apps. They make it difficult to see what they are asking to do with your data and don’t make it smooth and simple for users to change their settings. From your information they are able to build an online profile of you that can be sold to companies to make advertising for you easier. There are always risks that come with using smartphones, but there are ways to counter them. My goal in this blog is to educate the world on how to keep your private information as secure as it can be. In order to protect private info on smartphones, app producers need to make it easier to view and change the security and privacy settings, and we as users need to be wary of dealing with money and important work information on our smartphone devices.

First off, app producers need to make security and privacy settings easier to change and view. If we have easier systems to change, view, and understand our settings, it would prevent a lot of private data being shared. An example of having unreasonable and difficult to understand settings would be the terms of service for Instagram. They make it fairly difficult to understand and see what you are getting into due to the many categories and the rather wordy explanations. They also claim that they have the license to use the stuff you post for themselves, “ Instead, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post,” which is something you might not want if you have personal information on there. It might be difficult to find this bit of information due to the sheer length of the terms and conditions, and this could deter people from using Instagram. Users should be fully aware of what they are getting into, and without an easy to understand terms and conditions it can be very difficult to do that.

Screen shot from
Pinterest's Terms of Service
Now that we have looked at a bad example for terms and conditions let’s take a look at how all producers should or could make them. Pinterest, is an excellent example of how app producers can help out users. Pinterest uses larger categories that can then break off into smaller ones if that is the category you are interested in. On the side they sum up the general premise of the category using relatable and understandable words. Even though Pinterest isn’t flawless, they are a much better example for how to set up terms and conditions so that they are easy to view and understand. These two examples don’t have the same security settings that other apps have, but it would be beneficial to also have accessible privacy settings in order to prevent unwanted data sharing. Users deserve the right to know what they are getting into when they download an app and they also deserve the right to alter settings in order to make their usage safer and more enjoyable.

The second way that we can prevent unwanted data sharing is to be more cautious with what we do on our smartphones. With the recent surge in using smartphones for all kinds of activities, it has left us vulnerable to hackers getting into our personal information. Smartphone attacks have increased fourfold over the past year. Two ways people can hack phones are by bluetooth and through non-private wifi. Once they are into your phone they can install software that can share your information with the hacker. Always be wary of using bluetooth or open wifi when in public areas, especially if you are sharing important or private information. Also, users should refrain from using their phones for as much business activity. Whether it be sending a confidential work email to depositing money. It is safer to do these activities on a computer because computers have developed stronger antivirus systems. Since smartphones are relatively new they don’t have as strong of security systems, but there still are some that can immensely improve your security.

On the other hand, some people believe that it truly is impossible to protect all of your private info. Due to the fact that the smartphone is still pretty recent in the world of technology, it leads to it having fewer security measures than a computer, and, hackers can use this to their advantage. There are also people who think that there are just too many security settings that users won’t pay attention to or won’t realize are there. Terms and agreements are just too long and only eight percent of users fully read terms and agreements. App producers don’t have to listen to the complaints for having easier to access security settings because often times they are making money off of your information by selling it to advertisement companies so that those companies can advertise directly towards you. Also many people, especially teens, flat out don’t care what is being shared about them and they understand it is a burden that comes with using free apps. Only 40 percent of teens are under the category of being somewhat concerned in a study done by the Pew Research Center. To conclude, the main con argument against being able to have a safe and secure experience when using smartphones is that there are too many ways for apps and hackers to get into your personal information. People are also not in an urgent state trying to change how secure smartphone usage is.

Although there are still many security measures that smartphone companies will have to develop, laptops had the same issues when they were first introduced. In time we will have strong security measures for all smartphones that will prevent hackers from gaining access to our data. Right now, however, phones are easy targets because we haven’t had time to create strong enough security systems (Infosec). If we are able to make companies have terms and conditions more similar to those of pinterest then we will be able to counter private information leakage. A study was done by Carnegie Mellon University on just how much data is shared when playing free apps and what the reactions would be for the participants. The participants were told to play one of two free games. After they had played the game they were told how much data was being shared. Then they used a system which showed how many times this happened and the participants were shocked. Once they had seen just how much was being shared, on average 29 times per participant, they immediately wanted to check and change their privacy settings. If we simply make it easier to read and understand then we will be taking a big step forward. If users want to use an app that is there choice, but they should be aware of the possible consequences.

In conclusion, it is possible to thwart information sharing. My goal was to inform people of the possible risks of using smartphones and how to prevent those risks from happening. If users are more careful about not using their phones for business related and financial functions and are aware of what we post on social media then they will be more successful in keeping their information confidential. We also need to be wary of using local wifi and bluetooth. On the other hand app producers also should make it easier on users by making terms of service and security settings easier to understand and alter. In the end the burden falls both on the users and the app companies in order to nip this problem of private data sharing right in the bud.


I learned many things from my blogging experience that can help me with technology and sharing my opinion in the future. After reading and commenting on multiple blogs from my peers I gained a greater grasp on how to present my opinion with strong facts to back it up. I feel that my argument was a strong one, but the con argument could have been better. I had never stumbled upon any essays or papers that required the use of a con argument. This project definitely gave me a better view and approach to using arguments that go against your own opinion in order to strengthen your own. When I responded to some of my comments I realized that other people had the same opinion as me, but I also realized that I could have clarified a few things. Ms. Gerla brought up that many people don’t read the terms of service. She made the point that if we don’t read them then why should we blame others for our security and privacy problems. I had to clarify this and it made me realize that there were still areas in my post that I could improve on. I did have to research a bit more in order to reply to my comments. Some of the questions asked were out of my range as I’m still somewhat of a novice on my topic, so I had to search and find more articles and information that could backup my opinion. The concept of digital citizenship is to leave a good digital footprint and know how to handle yourself and act appropriately when using technology. I think that my topic is a good example for digital citizenship because it shows that there is a responsibility for both users and producers of apps to use technology wisely. In order to protect private info on smartphones, app producers need to make it easier to view and change the security and privacy settings, and we as users need to be wary of dealing with money and important work information on our smartphone devices. The responsibility lays on both the users and the app producers if we wish to make a change and make the internet a safer place.


  1. Hello Mrs. Beanz! I thought that this post was really interesting because when I use apps on my phone, I never really think about how much of my private information is being shared. I knew that digital privacy was a big deal, but I didn't really think that it affected me this much! One question that I have after reading your blog is: Why do companies make the Terms of Service so hard to understand in the first place? Why don't they just make it easier for everyone? I found an organization online that is trying to help people read the Terms of Service when they are online. Awesome post!

    1. Hi Mei, thanks for the comment. I felt the same way about how much private info could be shared when I first started researching this topic. It is often times easy to forget the risks of using free apps when you are on your phone. I think that the reason behind companies having large terms of services is partly because there are so many possible ways for people to take advantage of rules or find a loophole in them. A more sinister thought could be that they are supposed to be confusing so that users won't know what they are signing up for. I would think that the first opinion I stated would be the most likely. This article talks more about Terms of Service if you want to look deeper into the topic. Thanks for opinion.

  2. Nice Post Mrs. Beanz! I thought that it was very interesting "that your location might have been shared over 5,000 times in the past two weeks." It is very quite creepy to think that a hacker could have access from to all of my contacts and personal information. Do you know an average percentage of the number of people who have their phones hacked? I think that this informative article

    1. Hi Oaxaca Flinderson, thanks for the comment. It also startled me that hackers can get to your personal information such as your contacts or email. This article should help to answer your question about how often phones are hacked into. I checked out your link and it seemed like it had pretty simple and straightforward steps to preventing hacking. I'll be sure to follow them! Thanks again for your opinion.

  3. Hello Mrs. Beanz, I enjoyed your post although it made me afraid of everything. I didn't know the extent of how un protected our devises are. I found this interesting article that talks about how the government is spying on us. Its kind of alarming but very interesting. This website also links to many other articles that talk about how un private our electronics are. I hope this is helpful. Again I enjoyed your article, it has made me more aware of how sketchy the technological world can be. Thanks for teaching me something new. -Ashley

    1. Hi Ashley, thank you for the comment. I'm sorry to hear that you were frightened by this post, but I understand how it could come across as scary. I checked out the article that you put in your comment and I don't necessarily agree with everything they are saying, but it was very interesting to read. In my opinion the producers of the apps and services we use are the ones using our private information. I don't think the government is taking our private information from our accounts, although it could wind up in their hands one way or another. This article talks about how to keep your smartphone safe and your data in the right hands. Hopefully it makes you less afraid of technology and its potential risks! Thanks for your opinion.

  4. Mrs. Beanz, while I agree with you that terms of service could be written better so they're more easily understood, at what point does this purely become the user's responsibility? We "agree" to the terms without even knowing what they say (if we haven't read them), so can we really complain when our privacy is compromised? Even if they were easier to understand, 8% is a low number of people who take the time to read through them. We appear to have become complacent, agreeing to anything because we want to use the service provided by the app. What do you think would be a better way to educate people about this important topic? Thanks for your thoughts on this.

    1. Hi Ms. Gerla, thanks for the comment. Your opinion makes complete sense in the way that people don't take the time to read the terms and service agreements of their various apps and accounts, but I do believe that if they were written in a more concise and simple manner more people would end up reading them. Part of the turnoff, even for me, is how long some of these agreements are. In order to make people more aware of their privacy we need to make it known that in many cases the terms and agreements have policies that allow the producers to use your private information in a way that may not be wanted by the user. This movie has excellent explanations and information on terms and agreements. It might be worthwhile checking it out if you want to dig deeper into this topic. This movie would also be a helpful way to educate more people on this topic. Thanks again for your opinion.


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