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SECURITY

The Truth About Android Security (Part 3)

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12/10/2012 3:45:34 PM

Yet while some may call on Google to stamp out such behaviour in its entirety and make its system more secure, others will point to the data that Google collects itself and question why it needs it.

In March 2012, Google introduced a “unified privacy policy” that combined more than 60 separate privacy policies for different Google services into one. It is possible for Google to pick up information from your email and search. It will know the websites you visit and the YouTube videos you watch.

March 1 is the day Google’s new unified privacy policy goes into effect, which means your Google Web History will be shared among all of the Google products you use.

March 1 is the day Google’s new unified privacy policy goes into effect, which means your Google Web History will be shared among all of the Google products you use.

It says that it keeps information you give it such as your name, email address, telephone number or credit card. It will retain your profile photo. It may also collect your hardware model and mobile network information including phone number. And it says it will gather details of how you use its services, such as your search queries, log in information such as your phone number, calling party number, forwarding numbers, time and date of calls, duration of calls, SMS routing information and types of calls. It will even use cookies and location information as part of its privacy policy.

For some Android users, all of this may not be a problem. After all, you will be looking at so much and doing lots online that it would be very difficult to really intrude into your life without a great deal of effort.

But Google does say in its privacy policy that it will share personal information with companies, organisations or individuals outside of Google if the company has “a good faith belief that access, use, preservation or disclosure of the information is reasonably necessary to meet any applicable law, regulation, legal process or enforceable governmental request.”

But to who will it hand these details to and how can we be truly sure that Google will be vetting the companies sufficiently? Google says that this is to improve advert targeting. It also says the information is used to provide, maintain, protect and improve its services, develop new ones, and to protect Google and its users. It also uses this information to offer you tailored content such as more relevant search results and ads. And when you contact Google, it may keep a record of your communication. Cookies are used to improve your user experience it says.

One user - privacy campaigner Alex Hanff from Lancaster, was so annoyed that it prompted him to sue Google for the $640 cost of his device. He said the privacy policy could not be avoided by Android users (try using Google Play without agreeing) and that it amounted to a “significant infringement”.

And yet millions upon millions use Google every day. There is so much information out there on so many people that the actual potential damage to an individual is extremely low and we would say it does not have a major impact on your security.

What is clear is that you could be running scared forever. As Android becomes more popular (and it shows no sign of letting up), threats will remain.

Phones are taking on so many different guises that the potential value of handsets is constantly rising. The data on your phone is often far more valuable than the handset itself and new technology can often throw up more problems than they resolve. It becomes a trade-off between convenience and risk.

Ultimately, it comes down to common sense. By taking your own precautions and thinking carefully about which applications you install and what websites you visit on your device, you will be able to limit the potential for damage. Using your Android phone should be a pleasurable experience, and it is, but as with any computing experience, taking responsibility for your own online welfare will make it even more fun in the long term.

Antivirus app round-up

Decided you need antivirus? Here’s our pick of the best

MY Android Protection

Price: Free

Pros: Protects against viruses, malware and spyware in real time. Scanning is fast.

Cons: To perform a scan for the first time, you are taken to a purchase prompt which could put some people off. Only the first 30 days are free

MYAndroid Protection

Lookout Security & Antivirus

Price: Free

Pros: The in-built antivirus helps to protect your phone from damaging malware and spyware. It has a backup facility as a safety net too.

Cons: You have to pay for advanced features such as safe browsing to block phishing and malicious websites located in text messages.

Norton Antivirus & Security

Price: Free

Pros: The automatic antivirus scan protects against threats and it also lets you scan your SD card. It aims to protect your personal information and efforts to control your phone.

Cons: The web protection only works on the default Android browser which will leave those using a different one in the open.

Norton AntiVirus 2012

Norton AntiVirus 2012

Control your Google life

What does Google know about you, and how can you take back your data?

In a bid to be transparent and offer the user control over the information Google has on individuals, Google Dashboard offers a simple view into the data associated with your Google account. It shows what Google knows about you and there is an opportunity to alter details and delete them.

Blogger

Do you have a blog with Blogger? Since it is owned by Google, this is included in your Dashboard. You can edit the profile and manage the blog.

Data stored

This box appears when you ask for more data stored about your device. The applications that are backed up on its servers are shown and the last activity dates are clearly marked.

Android devices

You can view any Android devices which you have associated with your personal Google account.

Manage

The Manage options in blue let you configure what you want Google to know about you.

Chrome sync

Google Chrome will also store information about you and inform Google about it. These include the number of bookmarks, your preferences, themes and auto fill data. You can click ‘Stop sync and delete data from Google’ if you want more privacy.

Chrome Sync Pro is a universal that works on the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch

Chrome Sync Pro is a universal that works on the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch

Calendar

The Calendar section shows the various entries in your calendar and the number of calendars you have. These can be managed.

Google Apps

Be aware that there are many Google services from Blogger to Calendar to Chrome. And as you scroll down you will find any printers connected to Cloud Print, your Contacts, documents, Gmail information and more.

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