Your smartphone is not listening to you, but your 'free' apps are definitely spying on you

Tuesday, May 28, 2019
News 12 at 6 O’Clock/NBC at 7

Yes, your smartphone is spying on you. So, how do you cut that off? (Source: WRDW)

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- If you own a smart phone, this has probably happened to you: you're talking to someone about a product or activity-- and ads for it start popping up on your social media.

You may think it's a coincidence -- or you're paranoid -- but experts say it's neither.

If you have a smartphone, it's hard to hide. There is a privacy feature that lets you turn off certain apps that are tracking your location. But that doesn't keep them from seeing other information.

“You get apps, and they’re free, and there has to be a cost because the app developer has to make money,” Special Agent Steven Foster with the GBI Cyber Unit said.

The cost? Your privacy.

“They simply put in your user agreement that you agree to without reading usually, that we're going to access the information on your phone,” Foster said.

App developers are able to access what websites you're looking at, to the stores you visit, and even your interests.

“It is tracking your activity to know what to sell you,” Foster said, “and that's where the money's at is selling your information to the retailers so they know how to target ads directly to you."

As a consumer, Foster says, that's not a bad thing, but it’s a completely different thing when it comes to privacy.

“They call that the ‘Creepy Line’ because it does get a little creepy,” Foster said. “They’re following you everywhere.”

And it’s all because you clicked install.

“Free is never free,” Foster said.

Some smartphones don’t even show you the user agreement when you install an app. On an iPhone, you have to scroll down to find the privacy policy and license agreement in the app details.

“If you take the time to actually read the user agreement on an app that you download, it should concern you some of the thing they’re accessing just so you can have a free game or you can have a free flashlight,” Foster said.

We’re all guilty of not reading before downloading an app. But if you click “agree”, you might also be waiving your rights to take an action against a company.

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