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Security & privacy

Yikes! 80% of apps watch who you’re messaging – Here’s what to do about it

How much thought do you put into downloading a new app? You check out its page on the app store, read reviews, or maybe get it on the advice of a friend. That’s all fine, but you’re not doing enough.

Depending on the app, you could give up a lot of personal information. Some of the biggest names in tech release apps that collect your name, payment methods, location, purchases, contacts, browsing history and diagnostics. Tap or click here for the most invasive apps when it comes to privacy.

It gets worse. Once an app has your data, that information becomes more vulnerable than ever. That’s because you’re part of a database that hackers could target. A recent study showed how many apps have access to contact lists. Read on to see why this is especially scary and what you can do about it.

Here’s the backstory

There are a few ways to check what an app can access on your phone and what data it collects. Unfortunately, not enough people take this crucial step.

Researchers at TechShielder analyzed 10 of the most popular web platforms and social apps, and the results are disturbing.

The following table shows the most hacked apps in the world, along with the average number of Google searches for each app in relation to hacking. The final number indicates the percentage of data the apps have on their users, such as online activity, device information and contacts.

AppSearch termAverage monthly search volumeData Points stored per app
FacebookFacebook hacked550,000
70%
InstagramInstagram hacked246,00067%
WhatsappWhatsApp hacked135,00053%
SnapchatSnapchat hacked49,50059%
TwitchTwitch hacked27,10033%
NetflixNetflix Hacked18,10044%
YouTubeYouTube Hacked12,10052%
TelegramTelegram hacked8,10018%
TwitterTwitter hacked8,10053%
MessengerMessenger hacked6,60070%

As you can see, the top three most searched apps for hacking are owned by Meta: Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. Meta products also hold the most information on their users. Hackers know this, and that’s why these apps are such juicy targets.

The study also revealed that all the apps on the list collect data on phone numbers and email addresses, while most also collect names, credit card information and cookies. And this is all shared with third parties.

Other data collection points include how you interact with ads and pages, purchases you make, photos on your device and content you create.

One scary statistic is that 80% of the apps collect data on your contact list and messages you send and receive. Cybercriminals can use this information to impersonate you and go after your friends and family with phishing scams and ransom threats.

So you not only have to worry about these apps collecting and sharing the data with others but also be aware that hackers can scoop up all that information in one fell swoop with a data breach.

RELATED: Scam alert: 5 most costly data breaches (plus five states most targeted)

How to stay safe

The easiest way to reduce your chances of exposing your information is to delete the apps that collect the most data. But don’t forget to cancel your account first!

If you want to keep using these apps, at least take the following precautions:

Keep reading

30-second privacy check every Google and Facebook user must do today

The hidden privacy report in your phone you should start checking

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