If You Have Any of These Apps on Your Phone, Someone Could Be Watching You

The singer Rockwell once sang, “I always feel like somebody's watching me.” Think he was an iPhone owner? While informed citizens know that their phone is constantly tracking them, you deserve to know which apps violate your privacy most invasively.

1. Instagram

Instagram User
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Tech aficionados categorize Instagram as one of the apps that tracks “everything you do.” This is a problem because much of the Western world would cite Instagram as one of the apps they can't live without.

Oh, you thought Instagram was free? Think again.

2. Facebook

Bangkok. Thailand. January 24, 2016. A women holds Apple iPhone 6S with facebook application on the screen.facebook is a photo-sharing app for smartphones.
Image Credit: PK Studio/Shutterstock.

Facebook started as a first-of-its-kind website for announcing your love interests and keeping tabs on your fellow Class of '98-ers. It's now something far more controversial. Facebook puts the largest mines in Sierra Leone to shame. Rather than mining diamonds, though, Facebook mines virtually every detail of your life — including what you do after leaving Facebook's site or app.

3. DoorDash

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Of course, the DoorDash app must know where you are — how else is the Dasher going to drop off your Five Guys? 

Beyond that, DoorDash is collecting info about you all the time, even using your discussions with Dashers to gain insights that might be useful to advertisers. Want privacy? Leave the phone at home and go get the food yourself. 

4. TikTok

woman using Tim Tok
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Some national security experts consider TikTok a Trojan Horse. It's pretty wild that the modern Trojan Horse is filled with teenagers dancing to Doja Cat and Bruno Mars, but that's where we are.

In all seriousness, TikTok doesn't appear to capture much more data than Facebook or other American apps. The fact that TikTok has Chinese connections, though, sparks concerns about politically-motivated blackmail.

5. Ring

Ring App
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Ring owners typically buy the cameras for security but fail to recognize the data insecurity that comes with Ring and its app. Owned by Amazon, Ring is part of the sharing economy. Your Ring app is sharing all kinds of data with third parties.

Some critics state that Ring's data-sharing philosophy “facilitates police departments' unprecedented access into the private lives of citizens.” And you just wanted to keep an eye on your front door.

6. WhatsApp

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WhatsApp is the most popular chat app in the world, but it's also one of the most invasive.

Owner Facebook has been raiding WhatsApp for data since 2016. From your phone number to your location and how often you use the app, Facebook has the lowdown on WhatsApp users.

7. Facebook Messenger

Facebook Messenger App
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Here's a rule of thumb: If it's a Mark Zuckerberg-affiliated app, it knows you better than you know yourself.

Facebook Messenger is no exception. Critics even claim that Messenger can download an attachment you sent via text message and virtually everything else on your phone. It's called “Messenger,” but it would be more aptly named “Violator.”

8. Google Chrome

Google Workspace
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Google is among the most egregious violators of users' privacy. Its mobile apps, including Google Chrome, harvest your location, browsing history, payment information, “audio data,” and more. Luckily, the company's mantra is “Don't Be Evil,” a motto it would surely never violate.

9. Weather Apps

Weather Channel App
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Come for the forecast and leave with a host of trackers plotting your every digital move. 

10. LinkedIn

LinkedIn, laptop
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You downloaded the LinkedIn app to show off your resume and (hopefully) find that dream job. Instead, you voluntarily surrendered a trove of personal information to Microsoft (Linkedin's parent company) and have not one promotion to show for your sacrifice. 

11. Zillow

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Real estate listing site Zillow (and its parent company, Microsoft) has faced at least one civil lawsuit alleging egregious privacy violations. Critics have also accused the Zillow app of tracking far more user information than is reasonable. 

12. Chick-fil-A

Assorted American fast food restaurant apps are seen on an iPhone - McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, Taco Bell, Chick-fil-A, Domino's, SONIC, Dunkin', and Subway.
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When Chick-fil-A confirmed in 2023 that users of its mobile app had become victims of a data breach, many asked: Wait, Chick-fil-A is collecting my data?

Yep! Along with the nine bucks you handed over for a couple of chicken sandwiches, you also forked over financial information, personal identifiers, and other data that is (clearly) of value to scammers.

13. Calm

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When you download an app to help you sleep better (and possibly enhance your meditation routine), you are letting the app into the most intimate spaces of your life. You might ask, though, why Calm needs to know where you are in order to read you bedtime stories.

14. Angry Birds

Angry Birds App
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It turns out those Angry Birds you loved to slingshot around are also nosy birds. This app, which harvests more of your personal information than you're probably comfortable with, has been a trove for global intelligence agencies. Whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the fine line between commercial data collection and government surveillance and how Angry Birds was an unlikely means of spying on you. 

15. GasBuddy

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GasBuddy is one of the apps that genuinely needs to know your location. Though developers of the gas pump-locating app have addressed critics' concerns about constant geo-tracking, downloading GasBuddy means sacrificing a significant amount of privacy.

16. Airbnb

a woman using the airbnb app
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In addition to knowing where you are vacationing, Airbnb is one of the apps that attempts to capture images of your face. You have to wonder why Airbnb would need to see your face, too. Perhaps to ensure the proper party is paying a $300 cleaning fee for the crumbs you left on the couch?

Cover the camera and book that sleepaway trip at a stranger's house, in that order.

17. Siri

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That feminine-voiced helper who crafts your words into actions? She is listening to more than your commands. Though Apple says it has “overhauled” Siri to address privacy concerns, are you confident that she's not listening to you all the time? If she hears you say, “Hey Siri,” wouldn't that suggest she is always eavesdropping?

18. Walmart

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The Walmart app collects location data to track when shoppers are headed to the store, but the big-box retailer has taken data collection to another level. Because data mining has proven immensely profitable for Walmart, the retailer is collecting and selling users' data on Rollback. 

19. Grindr

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You would think that dating apps would err on the side of protecting user data, but you'd be wrong. The collection and sale of data from your Grindr app has proven especially problematic for closeted clergymen

20. YouTube

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Google owns YouTube. Where you find a Google product, you will find the mass destruction of personal privacy. When you review the types of data your YouTube app is constantly scraping off your phone, you might decide that Rumble isn't such a bad alternative. 

21. The New York Times

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The steady demise of Big Newspaper has accelerated the digitization of the news. Former media giants, including The New York Times, have had to consider all available revenue streams, including procuring and selling readers' data to third parties. In an article titled “This Article Is Spying on You,” the Times even admitted to (essentially) selling your information to the highest bidder, no matter how sleazy the bidder's intentions may be. 

Kudos for the honesty, we guess?

22. Mint

Mint best budget app
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Before the budgeting app Mint announced its discontinuation, it was known as one of the most prolific data-collecting apps on the marketplace. You could have guessed, based solely on the fact that the app was “free,” that it was peddling your data like hotcakes.

After all, how valuable would third-party retailers find information about your discretionary income? After seeing your Mint budget, Sharper Image might market you the $30 toaster rather than the $2,500 massage chair.

23. Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons
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Being a Canadian company, you would think Tim Hortons would politely explain that it intended to obtain your precious data in exchange for its delicious coffee. Instead, the app developers simply stole the data like they had sticky maple syrup all over their hands.

That wasn't very Canadian of them. Not at all.

24. Coinbase

Coinbase logo Crypto Platform Trading
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While the buzz around cryptocurrency has quieted significantly, your Coinbase app continues to mine your data like, well, a Bitcoin miner. In addition to the usual data most apps siphon (location, contact information, etc.), plaintiffs have accused the app's overlords of illegally collecting users' fingerprints and facial templates.

Source: Reader's Digest.