Your iPhone knows a lot about you. It knows who you call, where you go, what apps you use, what you do in your free time, how many steps you take in a day, and who sends you messages.
Apple has long had a reputation for respecting users' privacy (though recent revelations about how Siri handles recorded snippets of your conversations may change that). Still, that doesn't mean that every app you download feels the same way.
In fact, here are seven of the worst offenders when it comes to respecting your privacy:
Let's face it (no pun intended), every time you use Facebook, you're basically telling the company everything it needs to know in order to show you relevant ads that make it billions of dollars. That means that it's collecting all kinds of information about your device and what you do on it, even if you're not in the app.
With the recent revelations regarding how Facebook handles users' privacy and personal information, it's worth considering whether it's really worth the risk.
2. Basically Every Flashlight App
Your iPhone has a flashlight. There is literally no reason to ever download an app for that. Especially since according to a 2014 report from Wired, most of them only exist to harvest your personal information for various marketing purposes. I'm honestly not even sure why Apple still allows these in the App Store.
3. Weather Apps
It seems reasonable that a weather app would need to know where you're located in order to deliver a relevant (if not accurate) forecast. But as an example, here's what the popular WeatherBug app says it collects:
Information that identifies specifically who you are, such as your name, email address, or mailing address... or other information such as Zip code, gender, date of birth and your interests.
Is the weather different for 40-year-old men, compared to say, teenagers? I'm not sure why that information is necessary for an accurate forecast. Bottom line, most weather apps are collecting hordes of information that has little to do with the weather, and are sharing it with marketing affiliates on a regular basis.
4. Google Maps
Look, Google makes a lot of really useful stuff, and the maps app has long been the "gold standard," on any smartphone. But when you're signed in, Google knows where you are, where you've been, and where you're headed (if you use it for directions).
Combine that with the fact that Google already knows your browsing history, who you regularly communicate with via email, which apps you log into on your phone, and a whole lot of other personal information, and you can start to see why Google is the world's largest advertising platform. It basically knows everything.
5. Any Popular Games
Popular games like "Words With Friends," and "Angry Birds," have made headlines in the past for the way they collect, and even leak, personal information. Angry Birds was even hacked by the National Security Agency because its database of user information was so large, and basically left exposed.
Remember, if it's a free game, it makes money by advertising to you, which means it's collecting information. Often it's also selling that information to other services in exchange for a cut of the ad revenue, which means that game isn't looking out for your best interests.
All of the food delivery apps operate in a similar manner, but a Washington Post story on apps that regularly send your personal data highlighted DoorDash as a particular offender. That app sends a digital fingerprint of your device, which allows it to track you around the web. That way it can re-target you based on the food you previously looked at, even though you've long since made yourself a sandwich.
This one pains me. I love Siri, and how easy it makes everything else on the iPhone. Ask her for directions. Ask her to set reminders. Ask her to read you a text and then respond. I've even gone on record with my belief that Siri is the killer app on the iPhone.
But the recent revelation that Apple has contractors who regularly listen to a small sample of recorded interactions shows that Siri is not only listening when you talk to her, but often even when you aren't. And some of those recordings are of less flattering moments than simply asking who won the ballgame.
Ways to Protect Yourself
Fortunately, there is some good news. Your iPhone gives you control over what your apps are able to access. In the Setting > Privacy menu, you can decide which apps can access your location. You can also control Background App Refresh, which prevents apps from sending information in the background when you aren't currently using them.
The best thing you can do is to pay attention to privacy policies. Most of us look right past them, and figure that the convenience of whatever app we just downloaded is worth a few ads. What we don't realize is that those few ads come at a far greater costs -- our personal information and privacy.