Smartphones - the spy in your pocket

The new ITA dossier provides an insight into the business with our geodata describing the ingenuity of app designers to get hold of more and more information.

Whether in the office or on vacation, whether you’re lost on a country road or feel like playing a quick game before a business meeting – smartphones with their easy-to-download apps are always with you. Only very few users are aware to what extent they give up control of their data when downloading an app.

For Jaro Sterbik-Lamina, ITA security expert and lead author of the new ITA dossier "Smartphones - the spy in your pocket ," consumers are being willfully mislead: "Passing on our location and other information stored on our phones to advertising networks is a profitable business. We can safely assume that the main purpose of many apps, be they free or not, is to collect data without the knowledge of consumers". Especially alarming is the proliferation of smart phones among children and adolescents: "While consumer laws state clearly that this group is not to be considered fully competent when it comes to signing contracts, there is as yet no legislation which protects them from being spied at by ad networks," he says.

More specific privacy policies needed

Sterbik-Lamina appeales to citizens to exercise their right to privacy and to keep themselves informed about the latest developments . But he also adds: " A current lack of enforcement of European data protection laws makes it actually impossible to maintain full control of our data. It takes a stronger commitment from policy makers." Data protection institutions should receive more financial support and human resources.

Download: ITA-Dossier – The Spy in your pocket (German)


ITA project: AK5 Geodata
ITA topic: Safety and Security
ITA topic: Privacy

By: Denise Riedlinger

Navigation apps make the use of our geo data obvious and often are a saviour if one is lost. (Photo: ITA)

Other apps use our geodata without our knowledge and sell it to advertising networks. (Photo: ITA)