- Smartphones are almost ubiquitous and allow us to communicate, perform work and send and receive information (some of which is more sensitive than others). Unlike many devices, they are almost constantly in the possession of the owner and are rarely turned off. Effectively, they can be and often are used to track individuals. Depending on the security and privacy awareness of the individual, the amount of data that can be determined through the smartphone varies. Some individuals do not even lock their phone, or use less secure methods of locking, whilst others lock their phone and install privacy software. This includes refraining from using certain service providers and apps, but also more proactively using privacy tools such as a VPN or Tor. Arguments abound around the usefulness of these apps, and cynical commentators might even suggest that using these apps draws the attention of intelligence agencies. One urban legend suggests that anyone who has downloaded tour is on an FBI list for this reason. Regardless, most people leave a significant amount of information about themselves. This might be voluntarily, such as checking into a store or location on facebook (or more recently as mandated by covid check-in apps), and their use of GPS (whether actively through a Maps app or just passive location permissions) allows for a clear tracking of their locations at most times. Often individuals surrender this information willingly for the convenience of using these services. Also on smartphones (but also other devices) is the use of social media sites and search engines, which allow both companies such as google and some government agencies insight into an individuals interests, personal information and activities. Allowing apps access to photos, emails and personal data means that this data is also shared, and in the casa of hacks or data breaches, outside antagonists can also gain access to this data. People who are vulnerable to phishing schemes might also volunteer this information to nefarious parties. Beyond phishing, malware and physical access to the device can also compromise information. Wearables and connected devices provide even more insight to an individuals, allowing companies the opportunity to cross-reference data across multiple sources. This can even extend to health information collected by medical devices.
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