Experts warn consumers about their privacy on shopping apps 

Researchers at privacy protection company Incogni have found that many consumers are sharing a lot of information on shopping apps on their phones, but this can easily be avoided. 

With the holiday shopping season well underway, more consumers than ever are shopping online. In fact, studies show that around half of shoppers now use smartphones to compare products and prices, and shopping apps are becoming increasingly popular. 

Amazon is the most popular app, with over 20 million daily active users, but other apps like Walmart, Etsy, Shein, eBay, ASOS, and Vinted are all incredibly popular. 

The researchers from Incogni analyzed some of these shopping apps to see how they could affect users’ privacy and online security.

The first issue that the analysts found was that a high number of apps use ad library sharing. Of the 640 apps, they looked at, 65% share permissions with an average of 1.8 ad libraries. By sharing permissions with ad libraries, consumers can be targeted with personalized ads online. 

Additionally, many of the shopping apps needed permissions for functions that weren’t related to shopping, like recording audio, access to phone numbers, or taking pictures and videos. 

The companies had reasons for needing this information. However, according to Incogni, some of the apps automatically share permissions with the ad network they are connected to. 

They also found that larger apps were asking for the most information. For example, some of the most popular apps requested 27 pieces of data, compared with 14.3 for less popular ones.

The researchers point out that consumers can easily change their privacy permissions by going to “Settings” on their device and visiting the “Privacy” page. From here, they can change their smartphone permissions for certain apps, like switching off access to their camera, microphone, contacts, location, web browser history, and other online activity. Alternatively, consumers who are nervous can avoid popular shopping apps by visiting the retailer’s website on a browser instead.

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