The last few years has seen mobile technology come on leaps and bounds, phones are getting faster, smaller, smoother, smarter and much more capable. This has been reflected in the explosion in the choice of applications (apps) that are available for download. These days you have apps that help you find a restaurant, translate text, social network, and compare prices. Even NASA has an app.
It is little surprise therefore that one of the most popular type of apps is the dating app. There are hundreds of them on the Android Marketplace and even more on the Apple App Store, each promising the easiest, most fun way to meet people in "your area". Flirtomatic, one of the most popular mobile dating services, reported that in 2010 over half a billion "flirts" were sent, equating to about 285 messages per user.
It's clear that mobile dating has many things going for it but as Flirtomatic indicates in its "Flirt Report" market research; there are important privacy issues to remember when using location based apps.
Lloyd Borrett, Security Evangelist at AVG (AU/NZ), says, "In fact the power of your device knowing where you are will enable many more innovative services. We predict that within five years you'll be able to find someone on a dating site and send her (with her permission) real flowers immediately to wherever she is.
"Far fetched? Invasion of privacy? Consider that since your phone knows where you are, it becomes the most effective delivery address you can imagine. Your address is your phone, which is where you are. But only if you want it to be."
Giving away your location to strangers has obvious consequences and should be common sense, so here are five tips from AVG (AU/NZ) on staying safe while using location based apps:
Check the source: Only install apps from a trustworthy source - it's like buying from a shop, or placing your money in a bank account. Try and check the reputation of the app manufacturer. Apps in the Apple store are rigorously checked, while the Android Marketplace is more open with its screening policy.
Check for hidden charges: When downloading an app make sure that you know exactly what you're getting yourself into. "Free" isn't always as black and white as it may seem.
Check your settings: Make sure that the app is only monitoring/reporting the information that you want to share.
Turn it off: Turning off the GPS functionality when you're not using it will ensure that your privacy is protected. The same goes for removing the app if you've stopped using it.
Wear protection: Having an up to date anti-virus on your phone will ensure that it keeps malicious software from sharing information that you want to keep private.
Borrett says, "Solutions like AVG ANTIVIRUSFree or ANTIVIRUSPro for Android will scan the device, identify and remove malware, plus check applications for malware before downloading from application stores.