Even if you keep your information private, your friends may be giving it away through Caller ID and other apps. This is how you can protect yourself
Even if you take every possible step to keep your personal information private, your friends may be giving it away for free.
Much has been said about protecting your own information: You have been instructed to check which permissions you give downloaded apps and you are careful with the information you choose to share online. However, what you may not realize is that you do not have complete control over your personal data. Even if you do not share a single morsel of your life online, your friends and contacts may, knowingly or not, be doing so for you.
Facebook was one of the first to, deliberately, enable the violation of other people’s privacy by allowing apps to request access to a user’s friends, their statuses, check-ins and other personal information. Even Facebook, a company known for its open policy toward private information, announced at F8 2014 that they would disable this functionality, a move that was finalized in 2015.
However, some of the most popular mobile apps on the market currently enable your friends to give away your personal information for free. According to a recent Penn State study, people view their personal information as more valuable than their friends’, and knowingly provide access to their friends’ private data. Here are several popular caller-ID apps that prove that you aren’t, really, in control of your information.
TrueCaller, one of the most popular caller-ID apps on the market today, scans the user’s contact list and enters them into their database of phone numbers. In essence, even if you never used TrueCaller, your information is stored and available to anyone. While this database isn’t searchable for free users, you can easily pay a small fee to be able to search the database like a regular Yellow Pages website.
Sometimes, the phone number may show up as “Mom,” however other times it may reveal some sensitive information since the numbers show up as they are saved. This is potentially dangerous for people working in sensitive fields, such as security, who are not supposed to be identified. According to Google Play, the app has been installed between 100-500 million times, so you can be sure that your number is already stored in their database.The good news is that TrueCaller lets you remove yourself from their database very easily.
Similar to TrueCaller, Me also stores the user’s contacts in their database. However, Me takes privacy violation to the next level: by installing the app, you can view how other people have saved you in your phone. I, for example, am listed as “Talia Japan Blogger” in someone’s phone. While it is amusing to see how other people list you, this can potentially cause you some embarrassment if you have saved people in your contacts under unfavorable names.
3. Combination Caller ID and Location Apps
Perhaps some of the more alarming apps, such as CIA – Caller ID & Blocker and Mobile Caller Location Tracker identify both the caller and their location at the city level, which is generally easy to do as area codes are public information, and some apps even list mobile carriers. While the apps state that a caller’s exact location will not be shown and will only remain at the city level, it is entirely possible that future apps will enable this functionality, especially those downloadable through APK mirrors or alternative app stores that do not require App Store or Google Play approval.
While most caller ID apps enable you to remove yourself from the database, the sheer number of apps available on the market makes it virtually impossible to be completely off-grid. Additionally, many of these apps go beyond simple caller ID functionality: As access to photos and videos are sometimes given as well, anyone who has ever taken a picture of you may, knowingly or not, place your image in these apps. With facial recognition already built into our daily routine, clearly seen with Facebook’s auto-tagging capabilities, that picture your friend took of you at that party may, one day, reach a potential employer.
The functionality can also work in the opposite direction: Someone may see a photo of you online and, with the use of an app combining facial recognition with caller ID, be able to track down your phone number. So even if you don’t want to give out your phone number to that guy at the bar, he may be able to find you anyway.