Following its report yesterday that the NSA and other spy agencies were exploiting "leaky apps" such as Rovio's Angry Birds to gather information on users around the world, ProPublica has released this handy FAQ to better explain exactly how the whole process works and what consumers can do to moderately protect their privacy.
Basically the FAQ highlights how apps transmit a phone’s unique ID – a serial number assigned to the device – and the user’s location to advertisers. Advertisers have subsequently built more detailed profiles of users, tracking what they do with apps, their web surfing habits, etc. Spy agencies are apparently picking up much of this information as it travels through private cellphone networks around the world.
Here's the part of the FAQ that iOS and Android users should pay attention to, so we're reposting it here (even though we urge everyone to go read this FAQ and learn as much as you can about the topic):
Can I stop leaky apps from sending out data about me?
No, but you can make it harder for advertisers to track you on your phone.
Apple’s latest iPhone software, iOS 7, offers two options to limit ad tracking.
In privacy settings, users can turn on “limit ad tracking,” which prevents apps from using the phone’s unique ID – which Apple calls an “Advertising Identifier” – to deliver targeted ads within apps. But this setting does not prevent apps from collecting your information.
In privacy settings, users can also reset their Advertising Identifier, which can make it more difficult but not impossible for advertisers to correlate the user’s behavior to the advertising profile associated with the old identifier.
Google’s Android also offers users two options to limit ad tracking.
In the Ads section of the Google Settings app, users can check a box to “Opt out of interest-based ads.” But this does not prevent apps from collecting user’s information.
In the Ads section of the Google Settings app, users can also reset the Google advertising identifier, http://developer.android.com/google/play-services/id.html, which can make it more difficult – but not impossible – for advertisers to correlate the user’s behavior to the advertising profile associated with the old identifier.