The smartphone, for all its life-changing magic, sucks. It sucks up your time, it sucks up your battery, and it sucks up your data. So we’ve compiled a list of the apps you should wipe from your phone, stat: those that track you, harm your mental health, and pretend to care about your privacy, but don’t practice what they preach. Delete ’em now and never look back.
1. Angry Bird
Depressing, but true: Angry Birds isn’t your friend, even after all of these years. Released by Finish developer Rovio Entertainment back in 2009, the bird-launching game became an overnight success. What went wrong? Well, it all begins with Edward Snowden.
Early on, the infamous whistleblower claimed the hit mobile game was siphoning loads of data from users, but no one really took him seriously until it became national news that the U.S. National Security Agency and its British counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters, actually were collecting and transmitting personal data about the game’s users. An ad platform hidden in some of the game’s code let the company target advertisements to its users and, in an unfortunate twist of fate, that ad data was completely visible.
That meant sensitive data like phone numbers, call logs, location, political information and even information about users’ sexual orientation were public and available to those government agencies and beyond. The developers say it’s safe to use the app now, but maybe you should just take a break from shooting pigs and flinging birds for a bit.
Unfortunately, heaps of useful and practical apps are some of the most serious threats to your own data security. Take GasBuddy, for example. It’s meant to help you save precious cash at the pump by letting you compare prices at gas stations nearby—wherever you are—but that also means it’s gathering loads and loads of location data to make those calls.
Sure, just the gas station location data could be used to triage locations like where you work, live, and go out, but explicitly collecting data on your whereabouts in the background all the time feels like a full-on manifestation of Big Brother. Imagine if GasBuddy experienced a data breach. Do you want a hacker to have information about where you live?
3. IPVanish VPN
VPNs, or virtual private networks, rose in popularity over the last 10 years, but they’ve been around since 1996. Their purpose is to mask your internet activity and provide online privacy and anonymity by creating a private internet network from a public connection. VPNs mask your internet protocol (IP) location, making it virtually impossible to trace you. You can even make it look like you’re browsing from Slovakia when you’re actually in the U.S.
Ironically, a majority of VPN apps aren’t safe, including one of the most popular providers, IPVanish VPN. YouTubers and other influencers heavily push the paid service because it has a lucrative affiliate program. However, in 2018, IPVanish was found to be logging customers’ data and providing it to U.S. authorities, according to a YouTube review by Lee TV, a tech review vlog.
Weird, right? Since it was caught, IPVanish quit that practice, but it caused a myriad of trust issues for users, leading many to cancel their subscription and delete the app. That relationship with the government, while kaput, begs the question: Who else could IPVanish be sharing data with, while not adequately notifying customers?
Nobody should be surprised by this one, but if you haven’t already, you should seriously consider deleting Facebook. Just like Instagram and Twitter, its users waste far too much time on the app, which often results in anxiety or depression, studies have found.
But the cybersecurity issues are of equal cause for concern. Last year’s Cambridge Analytica scandal led to 87 million compromised profiles, whose contents were breached in a massive data leak that resulted in a U.S. Federal Trade Commission probe.
Not only does Facebook continue to have data breaches almost constantly (including one this month, already), but the company itself is also harvesting your data to build a profile of you for advertisers. Facebook’s app can take photos and video, record audio, add and delete contacts, read your texts and your calendar, and more.
The app is also constantly running in the background and sending you annoying push notifications that drain your battery and data limits (if you don’t have an unlimited data plan through your cell phone provider).
If you just can’t quit, you can add a shortcut to the Facebook site to your phone’s home screen on Android or bookmark under your favorites on iPhone to keep the data harvesting to a minimum. Just remember to close out the tab or screen when you’re done.
5 Any and All of These Android Apps Infested with a New Form of Malware
Have you heard of the “Joker Malware” yet? Just this month, it turned out that two dozen Android apps have been infected with the malware, which is designed to sign you up for subscription services without your permission. That could cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars if you don’t routinely check your bank and credit card statements.
“So far, we have detected it in 24 apps with over 472,000 installs in total,” cybersecurity researcher Aleksejs Kuprins at CSIS Security Group, wrote in a Medium blog.
Kuprins says the virus “steals the victim’s SMS messages [and] the contact list and device info.” Some of the code’s notes, he found, were written in Chinese, so that could indicate where the threat originated.
Once the malware was identified, Google moved the impacted apps from its store, but if you’ve already purchased or downloaded one of the following apps, not only should you uninstall them immediately, but you should also check your bank and credit card statements to identify any fraud.
Here is a complete list of the known affected apps:
-Antivirus Security — Security ScanBeach
-CameraBoard picture editing
-Collate Face Scanner
-Leaf Face Scanner
-Print Plan Scan
-Rapid Face Scanner
– Spark Wallpaper
Unless you work from home, you probably don’t have a fax machine or printer with a built-in scanner readily available. So when your boss or landlord asks you to sign a document, scan it, and send it back, that’s where apps like CamScanner come in.
The app lets you take a photo of a document and instantly turn it into a PDF. Cool, right? Of course—until the malware it’s been infected with crawls into your phone. In June, researchers at the Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky found malware in several different versions of the CamScanner app. The researchers described the malware in a blog post:
“As the name suggests, the module is a Trojan Dropper. That means the module extracts and runs another malicious module from an encrypted file included in the app’s resources. This “dropped” malware, in turn, is a Trojan Downloader that downloads more malicious modules depending on what its creators are up to at the moment. For example, an app with this malicious code may show intrusive ads and sign users up for paid subscriptions.”
Yikes. It looks like the malware issue has been resolved, since the CamScanner app is back on the Google Play store. But that betrayal of trust is enough reason to turn to a similar app that does the same thing, anyway. Check out Adobe Scan or Microsoft Office Lens for a safer alternative.
7. YouVersion Bible
It’s an incredibly simple app with the full text of the Bible. What could possibly go wrong? The most popular Bible app, YouVersion, is installed on about 300 million phones as of this year and, apparently, it’s the app’s divine right to collect all your data.
YouVersion can connect and disconnect to WiFi whenever it wants, modify the content stored on your phone, track your location, and read all of your contacts. And it’s probably not to let a higher power know what you’re doing. It’s most likely to serve you ads.
A rep from YouVersion told ExpressVPN that you have nothing to worry about. Apparently, the app’s permissions are meant to ensure the “best possible experience for our users” and that the developer, a nonprofit, “will not sell users’ data or personally identifiable information.”
We’re not convinced. You know what won’t steal your data? Books.