4 Viral Apps Risking Your Personal & Smartphone Security

Tips & Advice

Mobile phones have gone through an incredible transformation since their inception in the 1970s. Now, the sheer number of applications is dizzying, as are their privacy policies; however, smartphone apps can bring hours of fun and belly laughs, and occasionally, a viral app captures the world’s attention. Don’t let potential risks to your personal information safety ruin all smartphone apps for you. All you need to share and play safely is a few tips to help you identify which apps are OK to use and how to navigate them intelligently. 

Check out these four viral apps that may be putting your personal information at risk, plus a few tips that’ll help you enjoy smartphone apps safely. 

1. Voilà AI Artist

Voilà AI Artist is a trending app that reimagines your face as a cartoon, caricature, or model of fine Renaissance art. Users can snap a selfie with the app or allow the app to access their photo library. According to WIRED, the app says it deletes users’ photos from its database in 24 to 48 hours, though it’s difficult to confirm that they aren’t stored.  

Approach any app that could potentially use and store your likeness with caution. Deepfake technology is becoming more sophisticated and common by the day. Deepfakes are fabricated videos, images, or sound clips of every day or famous people based on real videos and images. Fake media impacts the victims whose likenesses are used because often the media is demeaning or incendiary. Voilà AI Artist hasn’t been suspected of any wrongdoing, but it’s best to be aware of how your face could be used to endorse something you don’t agree with. 

2. FaceApp 

Another face-altering app that could pose a risk to users’ privacy is FaceApp. Similar to Voilà AI Artist, it’s unclear what the app does with your likeness once you allow it to take your picture. FaceApp’s terms of use agreement outline that the selfies uploaded to the app belong to the app. From there, the app is free “to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, and display your User Content.” This line of fine print should make users pause. Again, users’ faces could be used in ways they wouldn’t normally agree to. 

3. Pokémon Go

While the Pokémon Go craze of 2016 has greatly subsided, the next viral app that sweeps the world could replicate the security vulnerabilities the premise presents. Pokémon Go uses augmented reality, which is the kind of technology that makes it look like a Pokémon is strolling across your living room. The app can access your camera, as well as your contacts, pictures, chats, and location. It’s a blast exploring your neighborhood looking for animated critters and seeing nearby strangers’ profiles pop up on your map; however, be wary of sharing location data and images of the inside of your home with people you don’t know in real life. 

4. TikTok 

TikTok may pose a risk to users’ data privacy. TikTok is under suspicion for using data mining tactics. Data mining is a practice where corporations harvest personal details from user-profiles and share them with advertising, marketing, and analytics companies. According to Business Insider, TikTok collects more than 50 kinds of data from users as young as 13 years old, including age, gender, location, and online habits. These facts are often used to create targeted ads that sometimes border on an invasion of privacy. 

How to Navigate Smartphone Apps Safely

Check out these tips to make sure you’re prepared to use apps safely or help you decide to skip trends entirely. 

  • Don’t give in to fads. When all your friends are posting app-generated cartoon images of themselves on social media, cheekily draw your own cartoon and post a picture of that instead. The worse of an artist you are, the better your post will be! 
  • Research before downloading. A quick search before downloading a trending app will likely bring up a few news results that may reveal egregious privacy concerns. Also, read the terms and conditions closely. The fine print often holds the answers to your privacy questions.
  • Change app permissions. Whenever you download a new app, make it a habit to first check out the privacy and data-tracking settings. Opt-out of targeted ads and tracking, and ensure your account is only visible to people you know in real life.   
  • Subscribe to mobile privacy protection. Navigate apps and mobile sites with confidence when you have McAfee Total Protection by your side. McAfee Total Protection provides safe browsing and identity and virus protection for desktops, tablets, and smartphones. 

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