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Digital skills: succeeding in a digital world
Digital skills: succeeding in a digital world

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1.3 What are apps doing with your personal data?

It’s important to be aware that apps can only do many of these wonderful things if they can access, store and sometimes share your personal data. In Week 4 you learned about the importance of reading, then thinking about the terms and conditions of a service before you sign up to it. Some services like Facebook own the copyright of any data that you post to their site; they will very rarely use or share that data with anyone, but you need to be aware that you sign away complete control of any information you share in Facebook.

Mobile device users may find their location information is constantly monitored by some apps and sometimes shared with advertising services. Free apps are more prone to sharing location data than other types of apps, because of their need to generate revenue through other means.

Activity 3 A judgement call

Timing: 5 minutes

It’s important to be more aware of the personal data that mobile devices harvest from us. This activity helps you think about the typical judgement call you would make when choosing an app.

In this scenario you have found a free app that helps you manage your photos. This app enables editing, curation and the sharing of photos through social media. The terms and conditions state that this app needs access to your location data, and that by signing up you agree to your location data being used by the app.

Take a moment to consider the implications of accepting those terms and conditions, and then decide whether you would still want to use that service. Click ‘Reveal feedback’ to see what we thought about the issue.


There is no right or wrong answer to this question. Whenever you are thinking about using an app or online service you will need to consider the value of the service offered and whether it is worth the inconvenience of agreeing to some of the terms and conditions. Many of us accept a little invasion of our privacy to share things with friends online and adjust our privacy settings in social media according to personal preference. Location data is often necessary for some apps to function: geolocation services like travel and direction finders could not work without location data. Restaurant booking services and hotel finders need such data to work better.

Ultimately these decisions are up to you, but you need to be aware of the implications of your choices. Don’t be put off using apps but do use them in full knowledge of what you might be agreeing to.

You might like to read this recent online article, ‘Apps snoop on your location way more than you think’ [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] that appeared in Wired magazine (2015).