Imagine that a company has produced a brand-new food. It’s all the rage, and everyone’s talking about it. Commercials for it are everywhere, and your kids come home from school talking about how all of their friends are eating it at lunch.
So you’re willing to give it a try. You head to the grocery store and find this hot new food, bring it home, and prepare to be amazed.
But there’s a catch: the company that made the new product wants information on how consumers like this new food, presumably to make it even better. Therefore, they’re sending a market researcher to your house to watch you unpack the food, cook the food, eat the food, and then…um…dispose of the food later. They record your reactions all along the way, taking notes about what you were wearing, who else was there, how long it took for you to digest it, and more. Sound good?
Of course not. What an absurd violation of your privacy. But that’s exactly what’s happening with many popular apps, especially keyboard apps.
First, you might wonder why you even need a keyboard app since your phone came with one.
Keyboard apps are fun, and they let you do things like type with emojis or insert GIFs into your social media posts and text messages. Too often, though, the developers behind them want to see what you type in order to “improve the user experience.”
That kind of feedback is all well and good if you trust the developer to stick to their own terms and conditions and to have strong security protocols in place that would keep a hacker from seeing what you type. Think about the content you type into your handheld device—email addresses, passwords, banking information, your Apple Pay or PayPal mobile wallet, social media messages, and more.
Then think about a hacker getting all of that data from a single file with your name on it. It’s a pretty scary thought.
Interestingly, there’s another consideration at stake: if the keyboard app was free to download (as many are), how is the company making money? Unless they’re on a humanitarian mission to make texting, even more, fun and engaging, they’re monetizing somehow. It could very well be through selling the data they collect on their users. Again, that should be included somewhere in the terms and conditions, but you’d have to go looking for it.
If you really do want to have fun with a third-party keyboard, there are some things to remember.
– First, you can try to find one that allows you to switch back and forth at the touch of a button, basically letting you revert back to your factory installed keyboard for important content. There are also keyboards that let you turn off the keylogging for things like typing in passwords or credit card numbers.
– To be on the safe side, though, you have to treat any device with a third-party keyboard as an open door to sharing all of your information.
If you don’t absolutely have to type it in, you might not want to until you’re at a more secure keyboard.
Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.