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Sunday, 20 April 2014

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Brave new apps world is looking creepier

We use them to buy and listen to music, store and share photos, read a newspaper, get maps or recipes and even find a wife...

But there’s a much more sinister side to these helpful little computer programmes that have become such a key part of our everyday life.

They can spy on us.

Facebook, for example, can read the text messages of all those who use its Android smartphone app.

The social media giant says it has not used this right – yet.

The photo app Flickr and Yahoo! are also believed to be able to use their apps to read our text messages, while some other programmes are said to be able to remotely take images from users’ cameras and even dial their phone and intercept calls without the owner’s knowledge.

The firms say they don’t and won’t pass on any information to a third party – but do you trust them?

And why should they feel the need to read our private messages – or to use our property to send messages or take pictures?

To say it is all very creepy is a massive understatement.

Users actually give suppliers access to private information and in some cases, to use their phones or computers without their knowledge.

Terms and conditions are those tiny, useless words that go on for pages which are usually printed so small and are sooo boring that no-one ever bothers with them.

But when we agree to ‘terms and conditions’ for apps, they can involve giving permission for these internet firms to help themselves to our privacy.

You can get an app to do anything and a new one pops up every minute – now even Oxfam is testing out a programme that lets customers find out the back story to that teapot or tanktop they’re thinking of buying.

Shoppers can scan the ‘shelflife’ tags with their mobile phones to find out about an item’s past and maybe why it is up for sale.

The charity believes it will be able to sell things more easily when they have stories attached to them. But if what we’re up to can now get back to the app creator this could be really serious.

I don’t want anyone else to know that I collect Bros and Spandau Ballet vinyl records...

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