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How Much Data are Companies Harvesting From Your Devices?


Does your online privacy matter?

Recent conversations I have had with friends have prompted me to do this piece;

But before we go far, just how much data are apps and companies harvesting from us through our phones and other web-enabled devices?

Most of us install apps and no one even cares to check the requested permissions by the apps. All we do is check Allow, Allow, Allow, and finish.

If you are on Facebook, you are aware of the sponsored ads section.

So one friend told me she had a weird experience with Facebook. She received a friendship request from her new boss, whom she had never seen nor saved his contacts. All this happened 5 mins after they left the boardroom, where the boss was introduced to the company.

Another one posted about her timeline being stuffed with ads about wedding stuff. She had never Googled anything about it but was planning one.

I too doubted myself when I noticed ads about an item I had discussed with someone in a meeting in his office.

So how does this happen?

Data is going to be the next gold in the world if it’s not already one. Companies and marketers aren’t leaving anything to chance. They are harvesting it with your ‘permission’ from the apps you install.

Let’s take Facebook as an example.

It now asks for permission to access your microphone! This means it listens to your conversations and lifts keywords from it. This leads to the ads you see on your timeline.

It also asks for access to your SMSs. Then you send a text asking for a quotation of an item and pap! They start displaying ads for the very item.

So if your friend sends you an SMS inviting you to a wedding committee, you will start seeing wedding-related ads on your timeline.

Just recently, Facebook was in the storm for leaking pictures that owners had not uploaded online! How? Because the users gave Facebook permission to access pictures on their phone galleries!

You need to check permissions requested by your apps. Look for the relevance of that permission. Why, for example, would Facebook want to read my SMSs and access to my calls?

One of the banking apps installed on my phone requested to access my Contacts! If granted, it means my bank gets all the phone numbers and email addresses of the people in my phone book! Then you ask how a bank you have never transacted with sends you promotional messages.

The permissions aren’t bad so to speak. They ‘enable’ the apps work. Not all permissions are requested with ulterior motives. But you can’t rule that out completely. Deny or remove them. I know we can’t be 100 percent safe in the digital era, but we can minimize the risks and build safer communities.

See below examples of the permissions asked by apps:


apps 2


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Sammy Mwathi is an entrepreneur and businessman operating in Kenya and Uganda. He has business interests in Fintech, Remittances, and Agribusiness. He is also a Rotarian and believes in service above self.


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