4 ways privacy apps upgrade your online experience

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The more intertwined our personal and online lives become, the harder it is to maintain our internet privacy. Today, we use our phones not just to make calls and send texts, but to work, conduct research, shop, post on social media, and snap photos. Instead of giving up on the internet or resigning themselves to less privacy, though, people are turning to privacy apps to help protect their information.

In the age of data tracking, it’s almost guaranteed that the websites and apps you use monitor your online behavior. Companies gather information on your interests, preferences, habits, and location, then use it for financial gain. They might sell it to a third party for marketing purposes, for example, or use it to send you targeted ads and tailor your online content.

Privacy breaches can also occur. According to the RSA Data Privacy and Security Survey 2019, 45% of U.S. respondents said their information was compromised in a data breach in the last five years.

In response to the rise in data tracking and breaches, consumers are searching for ways to protect their online privacy without sacrificing their favorite activities. One of the best solutions is a privacy app. There are a handful of different types of privacy apps, each of which provides a different level of protection. Here are the most common types of privacy apps:

  • Communication apps

  • Virtual private network apps

  • Search engine apps

  • Mobile browser apps

  • Permission apps

  • Password protection apps

  • Masking apps

Despite their unique functions and benefits, all privacy apps share a common goal: to give you more protection over your personal information. Here are four ways a privacy app can upgrade your online experience.  

1. You have more control over your personal information

Many companies require you to share personally identifiable information (PII) to download an app, create an account on a website, or subscribe to a newsletter. PII refers to any information someone can use to trace you, like your email address, phone number, mailing address, bank account, or credit card number.

While you may feel comfortable giving this information to certain websites or apps, like your favorite online store or the portal for your healthcare provider, you shouldn’t have to surrender sensitive personal details if you don’t want to. According to a 2018 Acxiom survey on global data privacy, 83% of consumers said they want more control over their personal information.  

Fortunately, privacy apps can help. Some privacy apps have masking capabilities, so your personal details stay hidden from companies and third parties. Depending on the particular app you download, you may be able to mask some pieces of information while keeping others visible. You may want to hide your credit card number, for example, but still give a company access to your email address so you can receive discounts on products.

The ability to choose which types of PII you share and with whom doesn’t just help improve your internet privacy, it can also give you peace of mind as you surf the web.

2. You get fewer unwanted ads

Whether you’re typing a question into Google, shopping for new furniture, or browsing your favorite blog, your online behavior is being recorded via cookies. Cookies are small text files that store your personal information and preferences on your local web browser, then auto-fill online forms and URL search bars. Cookies were designed to make your internet experience faster and more convenient, but companies also use them to track you, often without your knowledge or consent.

Websites use cookies to store your information, create a digital persona based on your interests and hobbies, then send you targeted ads. Of course, you may enjoy receiving occasional ads from your favorite brands, but getting a slew of unwanted ads can feel invasive. The RSA survey found that 68% of global consumers think it’s unethical for companies to track their online activity in order to tailor ads.

Privacy apps that restrict data tracking can help. Some apps give you access to private mobile browsers, while others let you conduct research and ask questions on anonymous search engines. In both cases, your history and cookies are erased when you close the browser, and none of your web activity is saved. This doesn’t completely limit data tracking, but it can help relieve you from receiving unhelpful or intrusive ads.

3. You can communicate freely

The messages you share over the internet aren’t always protected through encryption. Encryption is the process by which personal information online is coded and hidden to prevent unauthorized parties from accessing it. Though some apps and sites encrypt your messages, many others don’t. This can leave you vulnerable when sending texts and emails, making calls, or sharing photos.

Privacy apps with end-to-end messaging encryption can help. On these apps, all your photos and texts are encrypted, meaning only the receiver of your message can see it. Not even the app has access to your decryption code, so you can rest assured knowing the content of your messages isn’t being monitored or shared.

4. You can see where you’re most vulnerable

When you download an app, you’re required to give the app permission to access private information, like your location, camera, photos, contacts, or messages. Many of these permissions are necessary for functionality — think: an evite app demanding access to your contacts — but some apps request permission to view this information even when you’re not using the app. Giving apps 24/7 access to personal information updated in real time can significantly reduce your online privacy.

In a 2018 Anagog survey on data privacy, 83% of respondents said they were concerned that the apps they download automatically collect their personal information. It makes sense. It’s difficult to trust that apps will use your information responsibly, especially when so many companies have admitted to exchanging or selling consumers’ data to third parties for marketing purposes.

Using a privacy app can help combat the risks you take with regular apps. Certain privacy apps can give you a visual breakdown of your app permissions and even indicate which permissions pose the most risks. After reviewing these app permissions, you can either revoke permission or adjust the terms of an app’s access.

When should you start using a privacy app?

You don’t have to wait until you feel overly exposed to start using a privacy app. Privacy apps can give you relief no matter your situation: whether you’ve experienced a data breach, receive an overwhelming amount of ads, or just don’t want to share certain personal details on the internet. Everyone can benefit from having more autonomy in their online space.

Keep in mind, though, that most privacy apps dictate your level of privacy for you, instead of letting you choose how visible you want to be at any given time.

Embrace an all-in-one privacy solution

FigLeaf is the only all-in-one privacy app. In addition to encrypting your information and masking your personal details, it also lets you see the types and amount of personal information you have across the web. And the best part of FigLeaf is that there’s no obligation. Downloading the app doesn’t mean you have to remove all your personal information from the internet — it just means you have the freedom to decide what to share and when.

With FigLeaf, you don’t need to rely on a combination of different privacy apps to achieve the level of protection you want. We strive to meet all your online privacy needs, starting with putting the power back in your hands.

Author: FigLeaf Team