Smartphone Apps and Access Permissions: From Mobile Data to Big Data

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The limitless number of apps available on Apple Store, Google Play, and Microsoft store ask your permission to access device files or capabilities. Normally these permissions are quite relevant to the purpose for which the app is installed. For example, a map app needs access to GPS data. But sometimes a flashlight app may require permission to access your camera, microphone and even contact list.

If an app demands this kind of access, it is highly likely that the app sells this data to third-party analytics companies.

However, it can be fully harmless. Data governance laws are in place and they demand that any data gathered through smartphones be de-identified so that user privacy remains protected. The data can be used to improve functionality of the app and for advertising purpose.

A Master Degree in Business Data Analytics enables a student in using data harvested through smartphones, Internet of Things (IoT), web browsers and other connected devices in a productive way while maintaining user’s privacy and security of the data.

Pros:

Over 70% of the apps available on Apple stores and Google Play report smartphone data to analytics companies such as Facebook Graph API and Google Analytics. It helps developers in tracking app usage and social media connections that ultimately enables them to place advertisements that are well-suited to each user.

Smartphone data is also used to create user profiles. Developers analyze these profiles and use them further to create better user experiences.Third-party service libraries also store this data for an unspecified period of time in order to extract valuable insights through deep learning algorithms and analytics.

IMDEA Networks Institute, a network research organization, in their article titled as ‘7 in 10 Smartphone Apps Share Your Data With Third-party Services’ published in Science Daily explained that, ‘Successful library authors may be able to develop detailed digital profiles of users. For example, a person might give one app permission to know their location and another app access to their contacts. These are initially separate permissions, one to each app. But if both apps use the same third-party library and shared different pieces of information, the library’s developer could link the pieces together.’

The collected data can also be used in juxtaposition with smartphone hardware permissions such as microphone access, GPS data and camera feeds to make user experiences more personalized.

Roger Hurni, managing partner Off Madison Avenue, told journalist Jennifer Lonoff Schiff for her article titled as ‘7 Ways Small Businesses Can Benefit From Mobile Apps’ published on CIO.com, ‘By integrating geo-location technology into a mobile application, businesses can send special offers to customers who are in close proximity to stores. By using this approach, small businesses can decrease spend, narrow focus, and deliver targeted ads to consumers at the right time and place.’

There are legitimate smartphone data usages such as tailored ads, payments, geolocation targeting, governmental research, social programs and market research that includedemographics, spending habits of people and mobile device usage.

Researcher Jason Hong in his article titled as ‘Smartphone Data At Scale: Small Devices, Big Opportunities, Bigger Risk’ published in Carnegie Mellon University’s Research Showcase writes, ‘Cultural perceptions, economic factors, municipal borders, demography, geography, and resources all shape the texture and character of urban life. However, it can be extremely difficult to study these intricacies. There is an exciting opportunity for creating new ways to conceptualize and visualize the dynamics, structure, and character of a city by analyzing the social media data that people generate on their smartphones.’

Cons:

When it comes to data analytics universe, privacy is very important. In developed countries personally identifiable information (PII) must lose identifying characteristics through the process of de-identification.In the US, the Patriot Act, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and many other regulatory controls put restrictions on sharing data that can compromise individual’s identity or defraud people.

In the healthcare industry, the Privacy Rule of HIPAA contains a complete description of PII). As perHHS.gov’s‘ Summary Of The HIPAA Security Rule, ’ the rule applies to healthcare clearinghouses, healthcare providers, healthcare insurance companies and any third-party vendors with whom they conduct business.

The Privacy Rule protects identifying information such as social security numbers, first and last names, vehicle identification info such as license plates, account numbers and addresses.

Non-healthcare data is protected by similar rules. But countries other than the US such as China has practically no data governance.

Nathan Vanderklippe, a legal writer, in his article titled as ‘China Collecting Sensitive Personal Data Through Android Apps: Report’ published on TheGlobeAndMail.com claims. ‘[Some smartphone app] information is collected by Chinese search and advertising engine giant Baidu, which collects users’ GPS coordinates, names of nearby wireless networks, and a unique device number that can be used to identify a person’s phone.’

He further adds that Baidu gives data to the authorities in China in accordance with Chinese law.

Baidu is capable of creating very personalized profiles about particular users with little to no restrictions in place. The information may range from Social Security Numbers, creditor information, account numbers to other embarrassing or even dangerous data. Additionally, it also shares personal information of US citizens with the Chinese government.

Using apps that share your personalized data with analytics organizations that are strictly regulated by data governance laws will minimize the risk of compromising your personal information to unwelcome viewers. Additionally, Google is working on carving out methods to check apps on its online market place for excessive data permissions.

Brian Reigh, an analytics authority, in his article titled as ‘Google Can Tell Which Apps Are Asking For Too Much Of Your Private Information’ published on AndroidAuthority.com describes, ‘[Google] has developed a machine-learning algorithm that automatically creates categories and groups various apps based on not just similar functionality but also app metadata like text descriptions and user metrics, making these categories more accurate and less error-prone. The program reports the correlation between peer groups and alerts its teams on anomalies and harmful signals.’

Master Degree in Business Data Analytics by Maryville University

Maryville University’s online Master’s of Science in Business Data Analytics degree is focused on fulfilling the rising demand for business analytics experts. After graduation students can become fully prepared to join the workforce as data scientists, data analyst, a statistician or as specialist indata governance.

At Maryville University, students are taught to handle data sets, monetize data, mastermind multiple infrastructures and make decisions on the basis of valuable analytics insights. Graduates will be trained to juxtapose business operational data with latest analytical tools. This will make them a valuable asset for employers.

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