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3 red flags you should look for before downloading an app



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The terms of use of an app should not be agreed lightly.


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Read an app's terms of use before clicking to accept or agree? If you don't, you are not alone. Research has shown that very few people take the time to read what an app or website requires them to agree to ̵

1; even if, in the case of a study, participants unwittingly agreed to provide the company to their future firstborn Children. The long documents are often not designed to be understood, other researchers have found.

"The ability to read the terms of use or privacy policy is not easy. They are not accessible," said Nader Henein, senior research director and fellow for privacy at Gartner. "If you have lawyers who write the policy, there's a good chance that someone who doesn't have a law degree and a good half hour to devote to it won't be able to decipher exactly what they're asking for."

But don't worry – we are here to help. Here are three red flags to watch out for before you click a privacy policy to download an app or use a service.

Red Flag No. 1: Complexity

In litigation over privacy policies and terms of use, many cases fail to make litigation because no one is expected to actually read the fine print, Henein said. There is also no expectation that the reader will have the necessary training to understand the policy, even after reading it, he added.

Apps with complex policies that bury exactly what a person agrees with (such as sharing their information with third parties) are disingenuous for the company and should be avoided, said Henein.

"If the language is complex and you read the first paragraph and it doesn't make sense to the average person, it tells me that the company really didn't include people in the equation," said Henein. "You have to be careful."

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View the specific settings of an app to check your privacy options.


Jason Cipriani / CNET

Red Flag No. 2: Implicit Agreement

Policies that require an implicit agreement or consent should be hoisted a red flag. This means that you do not "give" your consent, but your consent is implied by a particular action or situation. Henein says this would look like a Terms of Use saying, "By browsing this website, you agree to A, B, and C." This type of language is not enforceable and should not be enforceable, he said.

Read more: Most Americans do not believe it is possible to keep their data private, the report says

Red Flag # 3: Data Collection and Monetization

According to Engin Kirda, a professor at the Khoury College of Computer Sciences at Northeastern University, what a political agreement on data collection says is another important factor to consider before downloading. The app goes hand in hand with this, Kirda said – especially if it can be downloaded for free.

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What permissions does accepting a service contract mean? grant the apps on your phone?


James Martin / CNET

Monetizing an app with ads can mean that it offers better service, but it can also benefit from selling your data. However, there is a difference between collecting some necessary information for the app to be useful and collecting a lot of information that may be sold to third party advertisers or that could be stolen.

Other app warning signs

While it's important to know what's in a policy agreement, there are other red flags that you can recognize without reading the document, Kirda said. Another important red flag is which permissions an app asks for. For example, a calculator app does not need access to your microphone or your location. Also make sure that you can use the app after you denied permissions, he added. If you ask for unnecessary permissions, this can indicate shameful activities, e.g. For example, an app that has access to your call logs or collects data from your Wi-Fi connections.

Michiel de Jong, one of the volunteers in the terms of use; Didn & # 39; t Read – a grassroots project where everyone can review the terms and policies of a website together – said it was important to see that a policy should not change by chance .

"Many services reserve the right to change the policy the day after you sign up and never keep the version you read when you signed up," said de Jong.

De Jong is also believed to have been looking for websites where you can sign a class action waiver, which means that they can sue you, but you cannot sue them.

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Privacy policies don't always mean that an app keeps your information private.


Angela Lang / CNET

What you can do

Henein suggested downloading the terms of use to familiarize yourself with the legal language of the service agreements and privacy policy. The browser extension has not been read, which summarizes the documents that may require their compliance and converts them into something quick and readable. ToS; DR sorts data protection guidelines and website conditions into different classes, whereby class A is very good and class E is the worst. In addition to class rating, contributors can rate sections of the terms as good, bad, blocking, or neutral.

For example, the website classifies Google as Class C because it has the ability to read a user's private messages, track a user on other websites, and more. The batch overflow has been classified as Class E due to its third-party tracking practices, which means that class action lawsuits and more are waived.

Read more : Why it is meaningless to accept a GDPR privacy policy

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Henein described Microsoft as a good example for the representation of website terms: The technology company outlines its data protection guidelines on about three pages, which are divided into sections for reasons of structure and clarity.

"Privacy policies should be written by a layperson and reviewed by a lawyer, not the other way around," said Henein. "The expectation is now that the privacy policy is as central to the creation and design as the rest of the website. They are not a necessary evil – they are part of the entire website, as they are meant to be an obligation. They address individuals like you should handle their personal data. "

In addition to ToS; DR suggested de Jong's DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials browser extension. The service combines data from ToS; DR with data from various other sources on encryption, trackers and more. LegiCrowd is another project that demystifies the terms of use with which the ToS; DR team works together. However, De Jong said it was more research-focused.

Tosback.org is a website where change logs are kept by legal guidelines that, according to de Jong, sometimes go back years. The project was started by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, but is now part of ToS; DR.

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