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Thorin Klosowski has looked deeply into new revelations of iPhone apps that show what information they are gathering about us and for what purpose.

He was both confused and concerned about our digital economy, which is based on apps that obscure what happens to our personal information.

Thorin, editor of the New York Times’ product review site Wirecutter, spoke to me about his research on the App tracking details from 250 iPhone appswhy people should care about app tracking and tips to keep their data safe.

Why should people be bothered by digital data capture? If a weather app knows when I’ve gone to McDonald’s and in return receives local weather forecasts, isn’t that a fair trade?

For a lot of people, yes. But it’s not really an informed trade.

For example, suppose you see in the description on the iPhone App Store that a weather app is constantly recording your location and recording all apps where you entered the same email address. They have no way of knowing why the app manufacturer needs this data or whether this information is being sold or passed on to other companies.

What could go wrong?

The start of face recognition Clearview AI is an example What happens when information that we publish for one purpose in the world is collected and used for another – in this case, compiling an online photo database of millions of people – that none of the participants really consented to?

We have little control over what happens to our personal information. Even trying to understand what is happening to our data is exhausting. I’ve written about digital privacy for years and I still find it extremely complicated.

The bottom line is that this Information on the data protection of the Apple appmodeled on food labels are better than nothing but still not very useful?

That’s it. These labels lack context. You can’t easily compare apps, so it is difficult to know which activity is normal for an app in a category and which may be going too far.

And after spending a lot more time on it than I expected, I’m not sure if this app tracking information is helpful. Glad the Apple privacy labels exist, but only as a first step for the public to understand how the whole data collection economy is fundamentally broken.

Let’s find something positive! Are there any apps you’ve looked at that collect relatively little data?

The Signal messaging app is a, and a note taking app called Bear. And almost all of the games that were part of Apple Arcade, the company’s $ 4.99 monthly video game subscription service, appeared to have minimal data collection.

What advice do you give to people who are concerned that their personal information is being collected?

Apps on your phone that you don’t use regularly expose you to more data collection unnecessarily. My top recommendations are to delete any apps you don’t use and not download any app at all if you plan to use them only once or occasionally. Using the website version of a service instead of the app is often a better alternative as data collection tends to be less aggressive.

If you had absolute power, what would you change to better preserve our personal information?

i think i would get rid of personalized advertising It depends on what we’re doing, where we’re going, or what our interests are. Digital advertisements based on our personal data are at the root of what is wrong with our online economy.

Continue reading: Android said It was planned to follow Apple’s example when it came to providing information about data collection in its app store. The Android data tracking labels will be released next year.

Tip of the week

Personalized ads are not just related to apps, they can also follow you on websites. Here is Brian X. Chen, The Times consumer technology columnist on ways to stop digital businesses from collecting our personal information:

Targeted ads are scary. In real life, if you were window shopping and looking at a pair of expensive shoes, would you want a flyer for the shoes to stick to your car permanently? This is basically how personalized online ads behave. I call them stalker ads.

I wrote a column about a few years ago Defeat Stalker Ads with brute force. Most of this advice is relevant to this day. The bottom line is that you need several techniques to block ads on the web and mobile apps. Here are a few steps:

  • Install an ad blocker. You can install add-ons for your web browser that block ads. My favorite for computer browsers is uBlock Originand on iPhones I recommend 1blocker.

    For Android users, Google has banned many ad blockers from its official Play App Store. The easiest way to block ads is to use a private web browser, as I explain in detail below.

  • Use a private browser on mobile devices. Firefox focus, DuckDuckGo and Brave are data protection-oriented mobile browsers that contain integrated blocking of ads and trackers. These are useful when you want to do a discreet web search. I’ve written more about these web browsers Here.

  • Install a tracker blocker. These detect computer code on websites that people are sniffing at and prevent the trackers from loading. My favorite tracker blocker for desktop systems is this Disconnect.meand for mobile devices, I like Barracuda CloudGen Access (free for both iOS and AndroidHere’s more information on Apple’s new settings that iPhone owners can use to do this Ask apps not to track them.

  • A scary computer attack on a fuel line: Cyber ​​criminals forced the shutdown of a pipeline that carries nearly half of the east coast’s gasoline and jet fuel supplies. My colleagues watched what this could do to fuel pricesand whether such critical infrastructure would be better protected under a White House draft proposal prescribe digital security standards for federal agencies and contractors.

    From last month: Nicole Perlroth explained why infrastructure is like pipelines so prone to ransomware, the type of cyberattack that targeted this fuel line.

  • Campus dispute over the supervision of virtual exams: Some Dartmouth medical students accused of cheating on online exams said administrators relied on incorrect data from the course assignment software Tracked student activity during distance exams without their knowledge. Examining the tension on the Dartmouth campus, my colleagues Natasha Singer and Aaron Krolik asked: Can the technology used to trap fraudsters be accurate, fair and transparent?

  • Back to the classroom is not that easy: Some kids and parents I am not aiming to go back to personal school Because they rearranged their lives in the past year so much that they don’t want to go back, reported my colleague Dana Goldstein. It is a nuanced analysis of what experts call “hesitation in school” and what officials do to persuade families to return.

We should love wasps! They fight pests, pollinate plants, and do other vital jobs to help ecosystems, human health, and the economy. “You can rid a bird of meat in a matter of hours,” a behavioral ecologist told CNN.

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