Data Security Data Security Apps should ask users for permission before accessing personal information. (Photo: Mikko Lemola / Shutterstock)

Want apps to stop stealing your personal data? Download this app

MyPermissions will help you regain control of your device.

You may think you're being careful about what information you share online, but do you really know where that information is going?

Users who connect to websites or social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, often do so through third-party apps, without knowing how much personal data is being accessed. 

A new app called MyPermissions was created by an Israeli startup to give users visibility into that data use, so they can make a more informed decision about what relationships to continue or terminate. The app is free and available for download on iTunes and Google Play.

“Regardless of whether the app is open and running, closed or has been dormant on a mobile device for years – the app still has the ability to access a wealth of personal data," MyPermissions CEO Olivier Amar told The Real Time Report. "MyPermissions has updated the Android app to provide privacy protection to mobile users and for the first time enable the mobile user to control which app can access personal data and what type of data they are comfortable with sharing.”

Jonathan Lewis, an IT manager at web developer Harmon.ie, said apps are supposed to state which information they are using and exposing when the user downloads it. Most people skip over them, though.

“For example, I thought I knew what my exposure was, but then I found a podcast app that had access to my contacts," Lewis said. "There’s no functional reason why a podcast should have that access, and such access can be used for nefarious reasons, such as spam and identity theft."

That’s where MyPermissions comes in. After a user's social networks are accessed, MyPermissions scans the device and produces a dashboard that lists all apps connected to those accounts. It also shows what media, such as photos and music, each app has permission to access and gives alerts when an app wants to change its permissions. This makes removing an app, or adjusting its data access, much easier. The app does not ask for any personal data.

“MyPermissions is quick and categorizes the permissions in a more human, readable format than the default permissions provided by most apps," Lewis said. "It also provides an overview of which apps have which exposure. For instance, Whatsapp should have access to contact lists for functional reasons, but a game should not."

MyPermissions is already winning accolades, coming in third place at last year's LeWeb Startup Competition.

LeWeb Startup Competition LeWeb Startup Competition. (Photo: MyPermissions) 

Lewis said users appreciate transparency when downloading apps. They become more inclined to accept updates when they know an app is accessing personal data to improve the experience rather than being deceptive.  

The result, for developers, is increased conversion rates.

There may still be a long way to go to ensure that personal information online isn't misused, but the MyPermissions team hopes its contribution will make the Internet a more secure place for everyone.

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