Declutter Your Phone with an App Cleanse
Your apps produce just as much excess data as your phone, if not more.
The more apps you have, the more information about you is out there, and the more companies have access to that data.
You may have even heard about app data being leaked in the news and wonder what you can do.
In this part of the detox, you’ll have the chance to finally get rid of some of those greedy apps that have been collecting your data: the social media app that’s been tracking your messages, the dating app that’s broadcasting your location or the gaming app that wants to access your contacts, to name a few.
If you’ve ever been scrolling through your apps and wondered “When did I download this?!” or "What does that even do?", this is for you. Let’s get started.
Take a Closer Look
It’s important to do an app cleanse once in a while – especially when it comes to those apps that you never use, and those that collect way more data than they should.
To decide which apps to keep and which to get rid of, take a closer look at what you have. Start with an app you use often, and ask yourself these questions:
- Do you really need it? When did you last use it? Can you access the service in your browser instead of having a dedicated app for it?
- What data can it collect? Your location, your contacts, your habits at home – don’t forget about those apps that control your home devices.
- Is there a more privacy-oriented alternative out there? Check out our Alternative App Centre for suggestions.
- What benefits are you getting in return for your data? Are they worth the trade-off?
As you answer these questions, you’ll be better positioned to decide if the app should stay – or if it should go.
Declutter Unwanted Apps
Your social media apps, games and weather apps are interested in your data … and they may be collecting quite a lot of it.
Getting rid of those random apps on your phone that you never use can be a powerful way to detox your digital self.
Plus, tidying up can also free up space on your phone, decrease data use, and increase battery life. This can even increase overall performance, depending on the app.
If you’ve opened an account for an app you no longer wish to use, be sure to close your account by going into your settings or profile and selecting the option to delete or close account. You can even send a message to the service requesting they delete your data, then delete the apps you don’t use, or that are too data-greedy – they’re just contributing to your data bloat.
- Settings →
- Apps →
- Select the app you want to uninstall →
Note: apps that are built into Android, or built in by the phone manufacturer – namely HTC, Samsung or Nokia – can’t be deleted.
- Press down on one app until they all start wiggling and small crosses appear in the top left corner of each app.
- To delete an app, tap the small cross of that app.
- To return to normal, press the home button.
Note: apps that are built into iPhone can’t be deleted.
Permission Not Granted
Sometimes apps get a bit greedy, so we need to step in.
A question you can ask yourself of any app you use is: does it really need access to that information? For example, your weather or gaming app may have access to your contacts, your social media app may have access to your location, your video streaming app may have access to your microphone, or your car-sharing app may have permission to access your camera.
You can turn off any permissions that the app doesn’t need to function. Note: You can easily change your app permissions later, if you find that you turned off too many.
- Settings →
- Apps →
- Manage permissions on a per-app basis
- Settings →
- Privacy →
- Select the permission you'd like to manage →
- Manage access on a per-app basis
You might be surprised by how many unnecessary permissions your apps have.
Check out the Data Detox Digest: App Edition to find out more about app privacy evaluations.
Replenish with Private Apps
Cleaning up your apps makes a huge difference to how many companies have access to your data. But now let’s go back to the question: “Is there a better alternative?” Here are a few points to keep an eye out for:
- Be Aware of Marketing Claims: Anyone can claim that their tool offers ‘heavy encryption’, 'military-grade encryption', is 'zero knowledge', or use other marketing buzzwords (sounds a lot like clickbait, doesn’t it?) To avoid the marketing-speak, see if the claims have been independently verified.
- Seek Out Their Transparency Report: Check if they publish a transparency report, which is where the people, company, or organization behind a tool publicly share whether they’ve had requests for user information, and whether or not they’ve complied with those requests.
- Research Their News Presence: Check for news reports about it. Has the tool been in the news for facilitating user security, or instead for having security breaches and vulnerabilities? If vulnerabilities were discovered, how did the owners react? Were they quick to fix the issue and apologetic, or did they issue a press release full of marketing-speak which tried to downplay the vulnerabilities that were found?
- Find Out Who Owns or Funds It: Look into whether the app or service is run by a nonprofit organization, independent developers, or a for-profit business. Once you know who is behind an app or service, you can begin to have a better idea of their reliability and reputation.
For many apps, there’s something out there that performs a similar function, but doesn’t make money off your data. You can find recommendations in the Alternative App Centre.
If it feels overwhelming to replace the tools you use, just start with one or two. For starters, look at your browser: can you replace it with Firefox or another more private service?
Refresh and Renew
App cleanses aren’t just a one-time deal. Make it a habit every few months to go back and check on your app collection. You can also check on app permissions every time you install a new app, to make sure it isn’t taking more than you bargained for.
Excellent work! With a little bit of regular app maintenance, you’ll feel much more in control of your app ecosystem.
Pass it on!
Since we’re connected online as much as we are in person, our choices matter as much as those around us. To ensure your contact information isn’t being collected by your friends’ or co-workers' apps, convince them to try an app cleanse themselves.
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