Protecting Your Privacy: How to Find Out What Data Apps Collect and Stop Them from Tracking You

· 6 min read
Protecting Your Privacy: How to Find Out What Data Apps Collect and Stop Them from Tracking You
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In today’s digital age, our smartphones have become an essential part of our lives. We use various apps for navigation, social media, shopping, and more. But did you know that these apps collect data from you? Your personal information, browsing habits, and preferences are valuable assets that companies use to target you with personalized ads and services. As a result, it’s crucial to understand what data apps collect and take steps to protect your privacy. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore how you can find out what data apps collect, identify potential privacy concerns, and stop them from tracking you.

Understanding App Data Collection

Most apps collect information about users to provide personalized experiences and improve their services. For instance, a navigation app needs access to your location data to offer accurate directions. Developers often use this data to monetize their apps or enhance user experiences with user consent. They may collect anonymous statistics to identify areas for improvement or collaborate with advertising networks to deliver targeted ads.

However, some developers abuse this trust by stealthily collecting unrelated information and selling it to third parties without user consent. To protect your privacy, it’s essential to be aware of these practices and take appropriate action. There are several ways you can use to determine which apps are collecting your data. Let us discuss some of the tools you can use to determine this.

How to determine the data being collected.

One of the most effective tools to determine which apps are collecting your data is to check the app’s privacy policy. Most developers include a detailed description of the type of data they collect, how they use it, and who they share it with. It’s important to read through these policies carefully and make sure you understand what information apps are collecting from you. However, sometimes this information is unavailable or hidden by developers, and so we can rely on third-party apps to give us this information.

AppCensus: Shedding Light on App Data Collection

One way to find out what personal data apps collect and where they send it is by using a service like AppCensus. AppCensus employs dynamic analysis to monitor an app’s behavior on a real mobile device. It tracks the data an app sends, who it sends it to, and whether the data is encrypted. By using AppCensus, you gain insights into an app’s real-world behavior and can make informed decisions about its data collection practices. However, it’s important to note that AppCensus analyzes only free and public Android apps, and its reports may be limited in scope due to the duration of testing.

Exodus Privacy: Uncovering App Trackers and Permissions

Exodus Privacy takes a different approach by analyzing the permissions and built-in trackers of apps. It evaluates the permissions an app requests and identifies any third-party modules designed to collect user information. Many apps integrate trackers from advertising networks to gather data for personalized ads. Exodus Privacy recognizes over 200 types of trackers and alerts users to potentially dangerous permissions that could compromise their privacy. By understanding an app’s permissions and trackers, you can make informed decisions about granting access to certain data and protecting your personal information.

The Dark Secrets of Apps

To illustrate the potential privacy risks posed by apps, let’s examine a popular selfie camera app. This app, with millions of downloads from Google Play, requests access to the camera, device location, and phone and call data. While device location may be justified for adding geotags to pictures, access to phone and call data seems unnecessary. AppCensus goes a step further and reveals that this app sends the collected data, including the device’s unique identifiers, to a Chinese IP address without encryption. Such practices raise concerns about the app’s privacy policy and the potential misuse of user data. This example highlights the importance of scrutinizing app data collection and taking steps to protect your privacy.

Steps to Protect Your Privacy

Now that you understand the risks associated with app data collection, let’s explore practical steps you can take to safeguard your privacy. By following these guidelines, you can minimize the amount of data apps collect and reduce the chances of your information being misused.

1. Be Mindful of App Permissions

When installing a new app, carefully review the permissions it requests. Ask yourself if the requested permissions align with the app’s functionality. If an app asks for unnecessary permissions, such as accessing your contacts or microphone for a simple flashlight app, consider finding an alternative that respects your privacy. Remember, you have the power to grant or deny permissions, so only give access to data that is essential for the app’s intended purpose.

2. Use Privacy-Focused Services

Opt for apps and services that prioritize user privacy and have transparent data collection practices. Look for apps that explicitly state their commitment to user privacy in their privacy policies. Consider using alternative apps that have undergone privacy audits or have received positive reviews for their privacy practices. By choosing privacy-focused services, you can have peace of mind knowing that your data is in safe hands.

3. Regularly Review App Permissions

Periodically review the permissions granted to installed apps on your device. Android users can access the device’s permission manager through the Settings menu to see which apps have access to specific permissions. iOS users can navigate to the Privacy section in the Settings app to review app permissions. If you find that an app has unnecessary or excessive permissions, revoke them to minimize the data it can collect.

4. Delete Unnecessary Apps

Take a close look at the apps you have installed on your device and evaluate their necessity. If there are apps that you no longer use or that serve no practical purpose, consider deleting them. Unused apps not only clutter your device, but may also continue collecting data in the background. By removing unnecessary apps, you reduce the potential risks associated with data collection and free up storage space on your device. Less is always better.

5. Research App Privacy Policies

Before downloading a new app, read its privacy policy to understand how the app collects, uses, and shares your data. Look for clear and concise explanations of data collection practices and whether the app shares data with third parties. If an app’s privacy policy is vague or raises concerns, it’s advisable to look for alternatives that prioritize user privacy. Remember, your data is valuable, and you have the right to know how it is being handled.

6. Stay Informed About Privacy Issues

Stay updated on the latest privacy news and developments. Privacy practices and regulations evolve, and being aware of these changes can help you make informed decisions about the apps you use. Follow trusted sources, such as privacy-focused blogs, cybersecurity experts, and technology news outlets, to stay informed about emerging privacy concerns and best practices. Feel free to subscribe to our newsletter to stay in the know!

7. Consider Privacy-Focused Browsers

Instead of relying solely on apps, consider using privacy-focused browsers for certain online activities. Privacy-focused browsers offer features such as built-in ad blockers, tracker blockers, and enhanced privacy settings. These browsers prioritize user privacy and provide additional layers of protection against data collection and tracking.

8. Limit Social Media Sharing

Social media platforms are notorious for collecting vast amounts of user data. Review your privacy settings on social media platforms and limit the information you share publicly. Be cautious about granting third-party apps access to your social media accounts, as they may collect additional information about you. Consider using the web versions of social media platforms instead of their apps to have more control over your privacy settings.

9. Use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)

When accessing apps or websites that handle sensitive information, consider using a VPN to encrypt your internet traffic and protect your online privacy. VPNs create a secure tunnel between your device and the internet, making it difficult for hackers or data collectors to intercept your data. By using a VPN, you can add an extra layer of privacy and security to your online activities. VPNs do not offer anonymity as most people claim! If your threat model is high, consider using Tor Browser instead.

10. Be Mindful of App Updates

Regularly update your apps to ensure you benefit from the latest security patches and privacy enhancements. Developers often release updates to address vulnerabilities and improve privacy features. By keeping your apps up to date, you reduce the risk of privacy breaches and ensure you have the most secure versions of your favorite apps.


Protecting your privacy in the digital age requires vigilance and informed decision-making. By understanding app data collection practices, staying informed about privacy concerns, and implementing privacy-focused strategies, you can take control of your personal information. Remember, your data is valuable, and you have the right to protect it. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can navigate the app landscape with confidence and enjoy the benefits of technology without sacrificing your privacy.

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