Think free apps are all fun and games and give you accurate information? Think Again!! When it comes to security and privacy risks, you’re probably better off with paid apps. Before trusting an app implicitly ask yourself who is behind the app and what information are they providing you with in order to influence your purchases, many apps also encourage users to add information or products to them opening up a whole new field of potential misinformation. I think many app developers are doing their best to aid consumers in choosing safer products for their families and that is admirable. But there is definite room for improvement, so it is important to understand how they are rating products so you can draw your own conclusions. Use them as tools, but don’t take their scores as the be-all, end-all do our own research.
- Many app’s users do not get access to accurate information and true comparisons because of the current scoring methodology, the lack of context about company policies, and the fact that brands that fully disclose ingredients are compared with some companies that are not disclosing all of their ingredients.
- As an example some of the ingredients in Think Dirty score a 10 (High Hazard) due to one or more studies indicating they may be allergens. Unfortunately, just because one person may be allergic, it doesn’t mean and ingredient is dangerous to the entire population. Think about peanuts.
- Some ingredients score high in apps due to potential impurities. They do not take into account the fact that companies can obtain certificates of purity from their suppliers ensuring that their ingredients are not contaminated.
- Preservatives also score high (which in many cases this is warranted), but if a company uses any water in their product, preservatives are necessary in small amounts (usually less than 1%). This should be taken into account because not using preservatives also poses a health risk.
- Various types of scoring system could unintentionally incentive companies to hide high scoring ingredients from their ingredients lists and penalize companies who are being completely transparent.
THE HIDDEN COSTS OF FREE MOBILE APPS
Although both paid and free apps have potential security issues, free apps come with greater risks:
- Text message costs – some apps will initiate text messages to premium numbers or will background call foreign numbers; you may wind up with an expensive wireless bill
- Information sharing – many apps will dig into the information on your phone or monitor your online activity
- Contact sharing – although this is part of the information on your phone, you may not realize that many apps can access your contact list (and all details you share there)
- Location sharing – apps may track where you are
- Vulnerabilities – apps may have vulnerabilities that put your mobile at risk
- Malware – some apps contain malware that can steal log-in information or personal data stored on the phone
Valid apps are just as likely to infringe upon your privacy as malicious ones, though the risks from malicious apps are higher—from identity theft, for example.
Nonetheless, paid apps are not without risks. Approximately 39 percent of paid iOS and 16 percent of paid Android apps collect and share user data with ad networks, which may be alarming for those with sensitive information on their devices.