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Google Play is home to a wide variety of apps, many of which are free. However, some researchers have argued that Google’s laissez-faire attitude towards app developers and their data usage practices means that many Android users are unknowingly having their data collected and shared with third-party companies, often for advertising purposes (Lambert, 2015). This raises important ethical questions about the trade-offs between Google’s responsibility to protect its users’ privacy and its need to collect user data to generate revenue from advertising.

Because of the lack of app transparency in the Google Play store, many Android users are unaware of the potential risks involved in downloading and using free apps. Some of the risks with downloading free apps are as follows:

Malware and Spyware

Free applications aren’t always safe. They might contain spyware and malware, which can compromise your privacy without your knowledge. The major problem with free apps is that they may be infected with malware or spyware. Free software programs may be used as Trojan horses to install other free applications on your phone without you knowing. Free software is a scam, so be careful about what app you download (Omar, 2022).

Stealing Private Information

Even if you download a secure software program, free apps can capture your email address, phone number, and even credit card numbers. Unfortunately, free Apps may also let you access confidential data from the internet, which raises the danger of stolen app fraud and malware attacks (Omar, 2022).

Trojan Horses

One of the most significant concerns with free applications is that they may be used as Trojan Horses to install additional free programs. An “overlay” is a type of Trojan horse. Trojans and Overlays are hazardous since they may fool the device’s user into downloading rogue software (Omar, 2022).

It’s important to note that Google takes no responsibility for the actions of app developers and it is up to users to make sure they are only downloading apps from reputable sources. Google Play is a great resource for finding new and useful apps, but users should always be mindful of how their data might be used and shared. For example, users should be aware of the data that is being collected and how it is being used and shared (possibly with other organizations).

One could argue that Google must inform its users about how their data might be used and collected by apps on the platform. After all, most people are not aware of the potential risks involved in downloading and using free apps.

Free apps aren’t necessarily “free.” The trade-off for “free” apps is your data. This is the currency that you give up to use these free apps. Now, that the public is becoming much more aware of the value of data privacy and how data can be used to influence individuals and communities, and the risk involved with free apps, something else must take the place of data as a currency. Many internet businesses are experimenting with a variety of methods to maintain their operations going forward, including changing their business models. Many companies have chosen to charge users for what they receive on the internet (i.e. app subscriptions) rather than using the user’s data (Chen, 2021).

To end this post on a good note, tech giants, like Apple and Google, have begun to adjust the guidelines regulating online data gathering in response to consumer anxiety over privacy. Apple, according to its privacy mantra, has implemented technologies that prevent advertisers from monitoring customers. To keep advertising aimed at people while avoiding exploiting access to their personal information, Google is trying to reinvent the way it conducts its data collection and target advertising business (Chen, 2021).

To sum it all up, it is up to each individual to decide whether or not they are comfortable with the way Google (or any company) handles data privacy on its platform. However, it is important to be aware of the potential risks involved in using free apps from unknown sources. Google Play is a great resource for finding new and useful apps, but users should still be mindful of the risk associated with downloading “free” mobile apps and how these apps may track, use, and share your data.

References:

Chen, B.X. (2021, September 21). The Battle for Digital Privacy Is Reshaping the Internet. Retrieved from URL: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/16/technology/digital-privacy.html

Lambert, J. (2015, May 5). A new study reveals the dangers of free apps on the Google Play Store. Retrieved from URL: https://www.notebookcheck.net/A-new-study-reveals-the-dangers-of-free-apps-on-the-Google-Play-Store.141996.0.html

Omar, A. (2022, January 17). Free apps: What You Need to Know Before Downloading. Retrieved from URL: https://techgenix.com/free-apps-what-you-need-to-know-before-downloading/