More security-minded

More security-minded

Don't let convenience stop you from protecting your phone

Half of Hongkongers who responded to a survey didn't know the personal data from their mobile phones could be accessed through the internet, the city's privacy commissioner for personal data revealed recently.

What's more, 58 per cent said they didn't know what kind of private information could be obtained.

Those aged between 15 and 20 knew even less about mobile phone security. Only 27 per cent said they read the terms and conditions before they installed apps to their smartphones. I have to wonder how many have actually read the full details.

What private data is inside a smartphone? Basically, it's any information that belongs to the user, such as the phone book, photos, and password list.

There are several reasons apps merchants want to get into and copy your personal information. One is that they want to make sure you hear about a new product they've just launched. Another is to sell that data to others who want to promote their products or services.

So, that brings us to the opposite concepts of security and convenience, and unless you do something to keep your personal information safe, convenience will win every time. One thing you can do is to pay more attention to the messages given by the apps during installation; such messages may be asking approval to use your data for any other purpose.

Usually, such messages, in the form of Terms and Conditions, are very long and printed very small. From a survey done in another country, a very long document of Terms and Conditions was found to have more than 17,000 words! Some of them even let you scroll automatically to the bottom, believing you don't care about reading it. If you think "yeah, whatever" and click "I agree", there goes your data.

Convenience and security always interact. Too convenient means poorer security; too secure often leads to a lot of inconvenience and a lack of fun in using the new technology.

We have to strike a balance between the two, so before we decide to fully enjoy a smartphone, it is wise to assess the risks to see whether we can afford to lose our privacy. And it's a good idea to install some anti-virus and anti-theft software.

Question:

Why do most users not pay attention to terms and conditions given by the apps during installation?

Answer the question about this story and win fabulous prizes. E-mail your answer, your school name and phone number to yp@scmp.com with "Science" in the subject line.


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