Last week at our expert panel on mobile-phone privacy and security, host Sree Sreenivasan lightened things up a bit when he asked the panel members (and the audience) to name some of their favorite apps. They ranged from useful to playful—and a few are both.
"How do we make the most of this amazing device and do it in safe, sustainable manner going forward?" asked Sree Sreenivasan (Chief Digital Officer at Columbia University and faculty member of Columbia's School of Journalism), who moderated a panel discussion hosted by Consumer Reports at Columbia University last night: "Consumer Trade-offs in a Mobile Culture: Privacy, Payments and Social Media."
Wi-Fi can be so tempting, making it easy for you to do just about anything online when you're away from home. But you should be thinking before clicking, because most public Wi-Fi could make your private information a bit too, well, public.
It pays to be careful about which apps you download to your smart phone. More than 5 million smart phone users experienced symptoms of malicious software on their phones in the past year, our latest survey projects. Even a nonmalicious app can be intrusive, asking for permissions to perform various actions, such as access your contact list or location, that may not be essential.
There are just about as many types of smart-phone users as there are phones. Understanding the kind of user you are will help you figure out how to strike the right balance between protecting yourself and getting the most out of your phone. For our privacy report, "Keep your phone safe," we narrowed the types down to three broad categories:
Consumers' home PCs were no safer than they were last year, our annual State of the Net survey found. Heavy spam afflicted 43 percent of those surveyed. We've used our survey to extrapolate the number of consumers affected nationally.
Many smart phone users don't adequately secure their phones, according to our latest survey. If that group includes you, here are three simple steps you can take to protect your privacy as well as the information on your phone if it's lost or stolen:
Smart phones are fast replacing home computers for many daily online activities. But 39 percent of the more than 100 million American adult smart phone owners failed to take even minimal security measures to protect their phone, the latest Consumer Reports State of the Net survey found. The survey projects that at least 7.1 million phones were irreparably damaged, lost, or stolen and not recovered last year.
Tax-related identity theft can turn your life upside down and take years to resolve. I know, because it happened to me in 2007, after someone submitted an electronic tax return—days before I filed—containing personal information about me and my family, and a bogus return address. The mess took piles of paperwork, a tax advocate, and more than two years to resolve. To this day I still have nightmares that it could happen again.
Consumerist (our sister site) just ran a story about a couple of hapless parents, a five-year-old Littlest Pet Shop player, and a $120 charge the child incurred making in-app purchases for the game. If you're concerned about the same thing happening to you, here's how you can prevent it.
The Federal Trade Commission is pursuing complaints against 29 affiliate marketers accused of sending "hundreds of millions of unwanted spam text messages" to consumers. The texts enticed recipients with promises of "free" gift cards from major retailers, supposedly worth up to $1,000.
Despite the appreciation for standalone, client-based e-mail programs professed by Jeff Fox, Consumer Reports' Technology Editor (and I do use such programs myself), there are a few good reasons to use webmail—browser-based e-mail services such as Gmail and Hotmail— in lieu of or at least alongside a resident e-mail program.
Web-based e-mail—webmail—is e-mail, such as Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo, that's implemented as a Web app and accessed through a browser. These services are usually free, and it's a rare computer user who doesn't have at least one active webmail account. But I restrict my use of webmail because of security and privacy concerns. (Dean Gallea, a senior program leader at Consumer Reports, takes the opposite view; see his counterpoint argument, "5 Reasons to Use Webmail.")
Skeptical consumers, take heed: If you receive a notice that your personal data has been breached, pay attention and take free self-help steps to protect yourself from identity fraud. Data-breach notifications have become an increasingly reliable predictor of identity fraud headed your way, according to the latest annual survey by Javelin Strategy and Research, the California consulting firm that has studied this crime for 10 years.
Social networking app Path settled a case with the Federal Trade Commission today, paying $800,000 for allegedly violating kids' privacy on its site. The FTC also released a new privacy report, with recommendations for protecting consumers using mobile devices.
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