The number of apps that collect detailed personal data might surprise you. That includes some of the top apps on the App Store and Google Play Store. What I love doing most as the CyberGuy is making a difference in informing you about the power you need to protect yourself, especially your privacy.
AtlasVPN has released a new report that lists the shopping apps that collect the most data on you. Topping the chart was eBay. According to AtlasVPN, eBay’s Android app grabs 28 data points. Here’s a look at the top 10:
2. Amazon Shopping
7. The Home Depot
All of these apps collect at least 18 data points on you. While some of that information can be data performance or app activity to help developers, some apps collect financial and personal data.
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Person shopping on app (Kurt "CyberGuy" Knutsson)
Privacy concerns you should have about shopping apps
According to the report, 58% of shopping apps on the Google Play Store share your personal information with third-party companies. That’s information like your name, email address, phone number and even home address. Those firms are not affiliated with the app and can use your data for whatever they’d like.
52% of shopping apps share your device ID with third-party companies
And even more startling, 52% of shopping apps share your device ID with third-party companies. Device IDs are specific codes used to identify every phone and tablet in the world. That means more than half of the top shopping apps on the Google Play Store are tracking your exact device.
More than a third of the shopping apps analyzed gave users’ financial data to third parties. That includes purchase history and payment information.
Person shopping with credit card on app (Kurt "CyberGuy" Knutsson)
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Responses to our privacy inquiry
We reached out to all 10 of these shopping apps, and these are the companies that we received responses from as of our deadline.
Home Depot said through a spokesperson,
“I can tell you we value our customers’ privacy and respect their information and privacy rights. We use the information customers provide us in innovative ways to improve and personalize the customer experience, process their information, and keep things running smoothly.”
Home Depot spokesperson went on to say that the company has a privacy and security statement available online and via their apps, which can be found here.
Home Depot also has controls in place to protect personal information. These controls include limiting what information is shared. In addition, Home Depot customers have the ability to block the sending of personal information for those who have opted out of sharing their information for targeted advertising in all 50 states and U.S. territories.
Amazon also responded to our request, and a company spokesperson had this to say,
“We collect, process, and share customers’ personal information to provide a great shopping experience, and use it only as described in our Privacy Notice. We are not in the business of selling our customers’ personal information to others.”
Person shopping with credit card on shopping app (Kurt "CyberGuy" Knutsson)
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7 ways to protect your privacy when using shopping apps
1) Research the information each app collects before you download it. In the App Store, you can simply click on the app, scroll to the App Privacy section, and click See Details. Android users can find the app in the Google Play Store, click on it, and select Data Safety. For Amazon, we recommend you change these 6 important Amazon privacy settings right now.
2) Avoid downloading less trustworthy apps like TEMU altogether, and I certainly wouldn’t share my data with them. If, for some reason, you do have an app like this on your phone, delete it immediately. There is a possibility that they may collect and share personal information with other third parties, which could put your sensitive information at risk. If you have used them, you will want to monitor your bank accounts and freeze or even cancel any credit cards.
3) Review the app permissions before installing or updating an app. Some apps may ask for access to your camera, microphone, location, contacts, or other sensitive data. You can choose to deny or revoke these permissions if you think they are unnecessary or intrusive to the app’s functionality.
4) Use a VPN when browsing or shopping online. A VPN (virtual private network) encrypts your internet traffic and hides your IP address, making it harder for third-party companies to track your online activity and collect your data. There are many VPN services available, some of which are free or offer a trial period. You can also use a VPN app on your mobile device for extra security. See my expert review of the best VPNs for browsing the web privately on your Windows, Mac, Android & iOS devices.
5) Clear your cache and cookies regularly. Cache and cookies are files that store information about your browsing history, preferences, and login details. They can also be used by advertisers and trackers to monitor your online behavior and target you with ads. You can clear your cache and cookies from your browser settings or use a private browsing mode that does not store them.
6) Use a password manager to create and store strong and unique passwords for each app and website you use. Password managers are applications that generate and store complex passwords for you, so you don’t have to remember them or use the same one for multiple accounts. This can prevent hackers from accessing your accounts and stealing your data. Some password managers also offer features like autofill, password sharing, and two-factor authentication.
Kurt’s key takeaways
Most apps we use now collect data on us in one way or another. So you owe it to yourself to know what information you’re handing over and how you can protect your privacy, especially as 75% of shopping apps share your information with third parties.
How do you protect your information when you’re shopping online? Are there apps you’ve stopped using because you felt you were giving out too much information? Let us know by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact.
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