blue phoneIf you have a smartphone, then chances are that you probably use many different mobile apps each and every day. Whether that is to access social media, instant message your friends and family, order a takeaway, or simply just for fun. It is true to say that with advancements in technology, there is an app for almost everyone and everything.

From dating and socialising to health and wellbeing, business and finance to finding a new job. The options are endless and many apps are free and can be downloaded within a matter of seconds. However before you download your next app, it is worth considering how they are funded, what data they collect on you as an individual and most importantly, where that information goes and for what purpose.

smartphoneFirst things first, what exactly is a mobile app?

A mobile application, or simply an app, is a piece of digital software that you can download and access straight from a device which is most typically a smartphone. You can also download apps for use on other devices which are connected to the internet such as a home computer, laptop or tablet.

Why are most mobile apps free?

The most common mobile apps are often found within the Apple App Store if you own an iPhone or through the Android marketplace but there are many other ways to access free apps depending on the device you have. It may have you thinking: Why are most mobile apps free? Well, with this in mind, here are the top 4 ways that app developers generate revenue from your digital downloads:

  • Generating income via advertising within the app. The mobile app itself is free as the point of purchase to encourage as many digital downloads as possible to increase the value of the advertising space.
  • Lite versions are available to download for free as a trial with the idea that the content will be engaging enough to upsell you the paid version with additional benefits.
  • Free apps will often allow you to make in-app purchases which will be billed through the credit or debit card associated with the app store you are accessing specifically.
  • Free apps may be a marketing tool used by a brand to increase your engagement in its product mix of goods and services.

screenWhat types of data can apps typically access?

At the point of downloading a new mobile app on your device, it is likely that you will be asked for permission to let them access specific information. It is important that you take notice of this and consider exactly what it is asking to access and whether it is fit for purpose.

As an example, some apps may be able to access sensitive information such as your personal contacts, call history, internet browsing, the device’s location and information about how you use the app itself most commonly for marketing and communications purposes. Ideally, apps should only access the specific data they need to run but it is true to say that they may also be able to access information that is not related to the purpose of the app which can be a cause for concern.

If you are worried about how your data is being used then be sure to thoroughly check the privacy settings on the device. To comply with GDPR, it is important that it is always clear within each and every mobile app on how you can opt-out of data collection and processing.