MONEY

You’ll Be Freaked Out to Learn How Often Your Apps Share Your Location

using smartphone at night
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Most of us are unaware of just how much location sharing is going on with our smartphones.

Even for researchers experienced at examining technology that might be invasive, this warning was alarming: “Your location has been shared 5,398 times with Facebook, Groupon, GO Launcher EX and seven other apps in the last 14 days.”

The warning was sent to a subject as scientists at Carnegie Mellon University were studying the impact of telling consumers how often their mobile phones shared their location and other personal data. Software was installed on users’ phones to better inform them of the data being sent out from their gadgets, and to offer a “privacy nudge” to see how consumers reacted. Here’s how one anonymous subject responded when informed a phone shared data 4,182 times:

“Are you kidding me?… It felt like I’m being followed by my own phone. It was scary. That number is too high.”

Mobile phone users are told about the kinds of things that might be shared when they install apps on their phones, but they have a tendency to “set and forget” the options. That means a single privacy choices, usually made in haste when clicking “install,” governs thousands of subsequent privacy transactions.

“The vast majority of people have no clue about what’s going on,” said Norman Sadeh, a professor in the School of Computer Science’s Institute for Software Research, who helped conduct the study.

But when consumers are reminded about the consequences of choices they make, “they rapidly act to limit further sharing,” the researchers found.

The study covered three weeks. During week one, app behavior data was merely collected. In week two, users were given access to permissions manager software called AppOps. In week three, they got the daily “privacy nudges” detailing the frequency at which their sensitive information was accessed by their apps.

Researchers found that the privacy managing software helped. When the participants were given access to AppOps, they collectively reviewed their app permissions 51 times and restricted 272 permissions on 76 distinct apps. Only one participant failed to review permissions. The “set and forget” mentality continued, however. Once the participants had set their preferences over the first few days, they stopped making changes.

But privacy reminders helped even more. During the third week, users went back and reviewed permissions 69 times, blocking 122 additional permissions on 47 apps.

Nudges Lead to Action

“The fact that users respond to privacy nudges indicate that they really care about privacy, but were just unaware of how much information was being collected about them,” Sadeh said. “App permission managers are better than nothing, but by themselves they aren’t sufficient … Privacy nudges can play an important role in increasing awareness and in motivating people to review and adjust their privacy settings.”

Of course, it’s hard to say if the research participants would have kept futzing with their privacy settings, even inspired by nudges, as time wore on. Sadeh suspected they would not: Privacy choices tend to wear people down. Given the new types and growing numbers of apps now in circulation, “even the most diligent smartphone user is likely to be overwhelmed by the choices for privacy controls,” the study’s authors said.

The findings will be presented at the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Seoul, South Korea, next month. The research is supported by the National Science Foundation, Google, Samsung and the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology.

For now, what can smartphone users do to better protect themselves? It’s not easy. For example: A study by IBM earlier this year found that roughly two-thirds of dating apps were vulnerable to exploitation, and in many cases, would give attackers location information. The AppOps software used in the Carnegie Mellon study used to be available to Android users, but was pulled by Google in 2013. The firm said the experimental add-on to the Android operating system had a tendency to break apps. So Android users are left to manually review app permissions one at a time — not a bad way to spend time the next time you are waiting for a bus. It’s always a good idea to turn off location sharing unless you know the software really needs it, such as map applications. IPhone users have the benefit of privacy manager software, but it doesn’t offer great detail on how data is used, and it doesn’t offer privacy nudges or any other kinds of reminders. A manual review is best for iPhone users, too.

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TIME apps

Your Smartphone Could be Tracking You Every 3 Minutes, Study Says

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Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Your apps want to know where you are

Smartphone apps regularly collect large amounts of data on users’ locations, sometimes as often as every three minutes, new research suggests.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University conducted a study where they asked 23 people to use their Android smartphones normally, and tracked location data requests from each device with specially designed software, the Wall Street Journal reports. The researchers found that many popular Android apps tracked their users an average 6,200 times per participant over a two-week period, or about every three minutes.

The WSJ writes:

Even apps that provided useful location-based services often requested the device’s location far more frequently than would be necessary to provide that service, the researchers said. The Weather Channel, for example, which provides local weather reports, requested device location an average 2,000 times, or every 10 minutes, during the study period. Groupon, which necessarily gathers location data to offer local deals, requested one participant’s coordinates 1,062 times in two weeks.

Some of the apps came pre-installed on the phone, and were not as easily deleted, the WSJ reports. The researchers were also looking at whether users would benefit or appreciate software “nudges” that would alert them when sensitive data was being collected by their apps. The researchers found that the participants often changed settings when they learned that their apps were collecting information about them or their location.

The research will be presented at the CHI 2015 conference.

[WSJ]

TIME relationships

Teens Are Totally Over Valentine’s Day

Young love on social media isn't all it's cracked up to be, according to new research provided to TIME

Ah, to be young on Valentine’s Day: walking past aisles of CVS chocolates to pick up your acne medication, stalking your sister’s college roommate on Instagram to admire her cute boyfriend, glaring at the one couple in your high school who prove that teenage love isn’t a cruel rom-com fantasy. Nobody ever said adolescence was a bunch of roses, but now there’s data to prove how sad it really is.

Teenagers are the most miserable group on Valentine’s Day, according to new data compiled by social-media platform We Heart It and provided to TIME. The vast majority of 21,000 responses (over 98%) were from teenage girls, and they didn’t have a lot of love for the holiday. Only 13% of teenagers under 15 think Valentine’s Day is “painful,” while 22% say it’s “overrated,” and 24% think it’s irrelevant. Teenagers are also the least likely age group to send Valentines, with over 53% saying they’re not sending any at all (compared with 41% of respondents over 25).

Teens also have very different attitudes about social media on Valentine’s Day — and it’s giving new meaning to the phrase “love hurts.”

Young teens seem to think that social media is essential to the Valentine’s Day experience: 21% of respondents under 15 said social media was “extremely important” on Valentine’s Day, and over 64% said it was “somewhat” important. By contrast, only 10% of respondents over 25 said they thought it was “very important” to Instagram or Tweet their chocolates and flowers.

But all those vicarious Valentines aren’t making teens feel better — instead, social media make them feel worse. Only 36% said they thought social media made Valentine’s Day more fun, while 65% said social media either made them feel jealous or stressed out (34% said they got jealous, 31% said they got stressed). By contrast, 54% of respondents over 25 said they thought social media made the day more fun.

In other words: Valentine’s Day, like red wine and stinky cheese, just gets better with age.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 11

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Syria’s own ‘Monuments Men’ are trying to stop antiquities from becoming looted to finance terrorism.

By Joe Parkinson, Ayla Albayrak and Duncan Mavin in the Wall Street Journal

2. Scientists have combined a bionic leaf with a bioengineered bacteria to convert solar energy into liquid fuel.

By Elizabeth Cooney at Harvard Medical School

3. A dozen states are using a smart data center to keep voter information up to date. Meet ERIC.

By the Pew Charitable Trusts on YouTube

4. Deciding to embrace big data is a lot easier than changing your culture to use it well.

By Matt Asay in ReadWrite

5. Fighting malaria is going to take more than just nets.

By Utibe Effiong and Lauretta Ovadje with Andrew Maynard in the Conversation

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Data

It’s Better to Be Single on Valentine’s Day

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Neil McArthur is a philosopher specializing in ethical issues around sex and love. Marina Adshade is the author Dollars and Sex: How Economics Influences Sex and Love.

Valentine's Day is almost always a fail for people in relationships.

“I really love Valentine’s Day!” said no unattached person, ever. And why shouldn’t the holiday be depressing for singles, when everyone else is basking in the glory that is romantic love. While this feeling is understandable, it’s not exactly rational; being in love is no more wonderful, and probably quite a bit less so, on Valentine’s Day than it is on any other day of the year.

From an economic perspective, the value of Valentine’s Day is that it creates an environment in which those in relationships can get information about how committed their partner is. Of course, we look for this information throughout the year, but February 14 is the one day when you have to show your hand. From this perspective, Valentine’s Day is a massive coordinated effort in which men and women have little choice but to spend time and money to assure their partners that they are loved.

And boy do they spend. The National Retail Federation predicts that Americans will spend a total of $19 billion on Valentine’s giving this year. That averages out to $142 per person celebrating the holiday.

But it is not just the expense that makes it better to be single on Valentine’s Day. To understand why you are better off unattached, it is best to think of gift giving on this day as a type of Prisoner’s Dilemma, the outcome of which determines whether or not a person wants to stay in a relationship.

Valentine’s Day, essentially, is a game in which each person who is in a relationship must choose between two strategies; buy a gift for their significant other or do nothing to celebrate the day. Given that there are two players, each with two strategic options, there are three possible outcomes that can happen on the big day.

The first outcome is that both choose to buy gifts. In this case, both will be satisfied that their partner is committed to the relationship, but that satisfaction comes at a cost. Unlike Christmas, when you occasionally get things you actually want, the vast majority of spending on Valentine’s Day is on items that people do not choose for themselves; 53% receive candy, 38% receive flowers, 21% receive jewelry, and 51% receive greeting cards. The reason we rarely buy these things for ourselves is because they cost more than we personally value them. So when our partners buy them for us, they are not getting the biggest bang for their buck in terms of our happiness.

And on Valentine’s Day, these things often cost more than they do on other days of the year.

The second outcome is that one person in the relationship buys a gift and the other does not. This will likely leave the gift giver with the impression that his or her partner is not committed to the relationship. From now until the middle of March is the one of the biggest times of the year for break ups, according to data from Facebook, and 53% of women say they would dump a guy who ignored Valentine’s Day, two facts that suggest that people who choose this strategy do not end up with much relationship happiness.

The final outcome is that neither person in the relationship gives a gift. This is the outcome that has the biggest return for the couple, especially for those who are already confidently committed. But it is also the outcome that is least likely to occur; the risk is just too high that one person will decide, maybe even at the last minute, to buy a gift for either partner to take the chance that they are going to find themselves in the second outcome — and potentially in the dog house.

The best strategy would be for couples to ignore the holiday altogether, but they won’t because there is just too much pressure to conform to the holiday traditions from both inside and outside the relationship. From a game strategic perspective, participating in the holiday just leads to sub-optimal outcomes.

So, if you are single on Valentine’s Day, you are only missing out on the opportunity to participate in an exercise that makes everyone involved worse off than they would have been had the holiday not existed at all.

Clearly, you are better off being single on Valentine’s Day. And you are certainly no worse off by being single this Saturday than you are any other day of the year.

So, if you really want to enjoy the day, go buy yourself something that you actually want. And, in the future, you might think about dating someone with whom you arrange an efficient allocation of resources on Valentine’s Day; we recommend dating an economist.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: January 23

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Though the “No Child Left Behind” brand is thoroughly tarnished, the law sparked the revolution of data-driven educating.

By Nick Sheltrown in EdSurge

2. To help cities plan for flooding, drought, wildfires and other effects of climate change, the University of Michigan built an adaptation tool for the Great Lakes region.

By Lisa A. Pappas at University of Michigan’s Graham Sustainability Institute

3. Teachers are underpaid in America. Early childhood workers earns even less for setting the foundation of all future learning for our children. That should change.

By Laura Bornfreund at New America Foundation

4. Chicago’s ‘Crime Lab’ — which uses scientific research to understand and experiment with innovative ways to prevent crime — could be replicated in other cities.

By Tina Rosenberg in Fixes, at the New York Times

5. To reduce billions of needless miles driving, a startup is bringing the Uber model to the trucking industry.

By Liz Gannes in Re/code

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: January 13

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. The U.S. could improve its counterinsurgency strategy by gathering better public opinion data from people in conflict zones.

By Andrew Shaver and Yang-Yang Zhou in the Washington Post

2. The drought-stricken western U.S. can learn from Israel’s water management software which pores over tons of data to detect or prevent leaks.

By Amanda Little in Bloomberg Businessweek

3. Beyond “Teach for Mexico:” To upgrade Latin America’s outdated public education systems, leaders must fight institutional inequality.

By Whitney Eulich and Ruxandra Guidi in the Christian Science Monitor

4. Investment recommendations for retirees are often based on savings levels achieved by only a small fraction of families. Here’s better advice.

By Luke Delorme in the Daily Economy

5. Lessons from the Swiss: We should start making people pay for the trash they throw away.

By Sabine Oishi in the Baltimore Sun

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: January 5

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. After 13 years at war chasing shifting priorities and the wildly different visions of civilian leadership, America’s military is a force adrift.

By Andrew Tilghman, Hope Hodge Seck, Michelle Tan, Patricia Kime, David Larter, Steve Losey and Leo Shane III in the Military Times

2. Sending kids to jail only ups the chances they’ll commit crimes again. States should raise the age of criminal responsibility.

By Sarah Childress at Frontline

3. 95 percent of the world’s population doesn’t own a computer. Repurposing old or unused tech can help close the gap.

By Revivn

4. We must build systems for overcoming subconscious racial bias.

By Sendhil Mullainathan in the Upshot

5. A new tool harnesses data to give teachers personalized roadmaps for professional development.

By Christina Quattrocchi in EdSurge

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: December 19

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. America needs a new testament of hope: “Demanding that we trade confusion and bewilderment for a fight for change that only hope and radical optimism can sustain.”

By Darren Walker in Human Parts on Medium

2. Data Integrity Unit: A team of detectives and data analysts is boosting the accuracy of crime statistics in Los Angeles.

By Joel Rubin and Ben Post in the Los Angeles Times

3. This remarkable community gives autistic children a connection inside the world of Minecraft — and might save their lives.

By Charlie Warzel in BuzzFeed

4. Experts are debating whether artificial intelligence is a threat to humanity. It’s very possible that machines with far less intelligence will cause us harm.

By Mark Bishop in New Scientist

5. The Innovative State: Governments should make markets, not just fix them.

By Mariana Mazzucato in Foreign Affairs

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME

Morning Must Reads: December 9

Capitol
Mark Wilson—Getty Images The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

Exclusive: Putin Cut Ukraine Criticism From Speech Ahead of Peace Talks

Russia’s President apparently cut out a blistering critique of Ukrainian authorities from a Dec. 5 speech just moments before delivery, TIME’s Simon Shuster reports, as his position on the conflict with his country’s neighbor softens ahead of the next round of peace talks

How Sharing Your Health Data Could Change Medical Research

A slew of companies and organizations promise to tear down barriers to data collection and sharing by encouraging patients to give away their information

Senate to Release Torture Report

The report, expected on Tuesday, will shed light on the CIA’s use of so-called “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” in the years after 9/11

President Obama Gets Personal With Stephen Colbert

Obama took his first and final turn on the Colbert Report Monday night, fending off verbal assaults from the faux-conservative comedian. The appearance on the satirical show was partly meant to highlight the ongoing open enrollment for health insurance in 2015

Second Nor’easter Is Coming

A second nor’easter in two weeks will slug the Interstate 95 corridor starting Tuesday, prompting winter storm watches and warnings in six states. The storm is expected to arrive with strong winds and 2 in. of rain from Maine to New Jersey

Prince William and Kate Just Met Beyoncé and Jay Z

The momentous encounter took place Monday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where both couples watched the Brooklyn Nets play the Cleveland Cavaliers, which meant LeBron James was also in the same room. The royal couples had courtside seats, and sat across from each other

New Batch of Ferguson Grand Jury Documents Released

Bob McCulloch, the prosecutor who oversaw the Ferguson police shooting inquiry, has released additional grand jury documents after not including a law-enforcement interview with a key witness in the initial public release of evidence

Portland Tells Uber to Stop Operating

The City of Portland filed a lawsuit against Uber on Monday, alleging that the ride-sharing service broke local codes. Officials said Uber was “in violation of the City of Portland’s Private for Hire Transportation Regulations,” in a suit just three days after Uber’s Portland launch

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus Set for Re-Election Bid

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus formally declared his bid for a third two-year term on Monday evening in an email to members. “With such support it is impossible for me to say no,” Priebus wrote to members of the committee

Sierra Leone Has Highest Number of Ebola Cases

Sierra Leone has surpassed Liberia as the country with the highest number of Ebola cases, according to the most recent World Health Organization statistics. The WHO said transmission of the virus was “intense” in Sierra Leone

Malaria Deaths Nearly Halved Since 2000

According to the World Health Organization’s World Malaria Report 2014, the mortality rate decreased by 47% worldwide since 2000, and the number of infections went from 173 million the same year to 128 million in 2013

Actor Who Played The Addams Family Son Has Died

Ken Weatherwax, who played the Addams Family’s pudgy, cake-loving son, Pugsley, on the 1960s television hit, died of a heart attack on Sunday. He was 59. The actor was best known for his memorable role in the cult series, but later said the part stymied his acting career

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