As long as you have an internet connection, your privacy is always at risk. Every app and service tracks you to some degree, with some playing fast and loose with your data. Here are the most invasive apps.
It’s no secret that social media companies track almost everything you do, but which are the worst offenders? Check out the full report below.
The worst of the worst
Cybersecurity research firm Internet 2.0 published a study showing which social media companies collect the most data. The company used Malcore, an automated analysis tool that scans files and programs to detect malware and assess risk.
Some platforms on the list aren’t available in the U.S. or aren’t as popular here as in other countries. So we pulled the top five heavy hitters you’ll likely recognize, even if you don’t use them.
The score is based on a number of factors, such as dangerous permissions, trackers and code analysis results. These are deep-level scans and mostly go beyond the normal tracking and permission requests such as browsing history, clicks and the contents of your online cart.
Each factor adds a certain amount of points and the total is tallied for a final score (these numbers are not on a scale of 1 to 100). The higher the score, the worst an app is in terms of privacy.
Here’s the order of apps going from the highest risk score to the lowest:
- TikTok (63.1): As the worst social media offender, TikTok was found to have nine trackers, including Facebook share, analytics and login. Dangerous permission requests include location, reading, writing, and access to your network, camera and contacts.
- Instagram (34.55): Instagram had three trackers in the Facebook ecosystem and several dangerous permission requests including location, audio recorder, your phone number and the ability to write on your SD card.
- Twitter (34.4): Twitter had five trackers and owes its score to a high amount of dangerous permissions like location, camera, contacts and the ability to prevent the phone from going to sleep.
- Snapchat (34.25): Snapchat had four trackers and many dangerous permissions. This includes access to your location, camera, phone lock, contacts and SD card.
- LinkedIn (34.15): LinkedIn equaled TikTok with nine trackers but the least amount of dangerous permission requests in the top five, with access to your calendar, SD card, contacts and network status. One permission can even prevent your phone from going to sleep.
The average industry score was 28.8, while the average score for social media apps was 34 (TikTok was nearly double in this category).
Take back your privacy
Fortunately, your phone has some settings to limit how these apps track you.
iOS privacy settings
- Go to Settings > Privacy & Security > Location Services. You can turn off the global location setting or tap an app in the list below to change its individual settings.
- Go to Settings > Privacy & Security > Tracking, and check that Allow Apps to Request to Track is switched off. This will automatically deny any new app tracking requests.
- Go to Settings > Privacy & Security > Contacts and slide the toggle next to any apps you don’t want accessing your contacts to the left.
- Go to Settings > Privacy & Security > Microphone and switch off access for any apps that don’t need access to your mic.
- Go to Settings > Privacy & Security > Camera and switch off access for any apps that don’t need access to your camera.
There are more permissions to change in the Privacy & Security section, such as Calendars, Speech Recognition and Health. Go through each one and revoke permission as needed.
RELATED: 7 important iPhone security settings to change right now
Android privacy settings
- Open Settings > Location on your phone and tap App permission. You’ll see a list of apps that can access your location any time, only while it’s in use, or when you give permission.
- Go to Settings > Privacy > Privacy Dashboard to see an overview of what things your apps have accessed recently.
- Go to Settings > Privacy > Permission manager > Contacts and tap an app. Turn off access to your contacts as needed.
- Go to Settings > Privacy > Permission Manager > Camera. Here you can see which apps have permission for your camera. Disable them if they don’t need to use them.
- Go to Settings > Privacy > Permission Manager > Microphone. Here you can see which apps have permission for your mic. Disable them if they don’t need to use them.
There are more permissions to change in the Permission Manager, such as Calendar, Physical Activity and Storage. Go through each one and make the necessary changes. For more information, check out five Android phone settings that drastically improve your privacy.
Check out our reports for changing privacy settings within the apps themselves:
Use TikTok? Take this one step now or they might be tracking you
How to change privacy settings on Instagram
Twitter shares your location when you tweet – Take this step now
30-second privacy check every Google and Facebook user must do today