Are “Free” Apps Actually Free?

ChatMail   |   October 1, 2020

Beware of how Free Apps Sell Your Information to Marketers

We live in an era of breathtaking technology, where “apps” facilitate countless things people do every day as if by magic. Press a button, and a car arrives to pick you up or drop off your favourite meal right to your location.

Some apps require purchases, but many third-party apps are free to download and use, which may rightfully make people wonder: “how do mobile developers make a profit if they give away their product for free?”

It’s common wisdom that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, so people are right to get suspicious by developers urging them to download for free an app that costs them time and money to build. The fact is, third-party apps make their money by selling the data that people turn over to them for free.

They don’t charge you to download the app because they have calculated that it’s in their financial interest to give it to you for free since they can make more money from selling your data than they would on the sale.

The Threat of Third-Party Weather Apps

Of all the third-party apps out there which demonstrate free apps have a price that you don’t want to pay, third-party weather apps are perhaps the most common. Weather apps are easy to build, which means there are many on the market.

Plus, people use them every day and, because people need to know what conditions are like near them, they have a legitimate need to ask for your location. This combination ensures they gather a lot of accurate information about every user.

Prominent third-party weather apps like Accuware were caught a few years ago selling users’ private location data to third parties, even when the user went to the trouble of turning off their location data. Numerous other weather apps ask for excessive permissions, collecting information like users’ phone numbers, email addresses, and phone IMEI identification numbers.

Given the history of apps like these fishing for more personal information than they need, and collecting data than they admit to, it’s not surprising that people are looking for the strongest encryption algorithms available to ensure their phone is fully secure.

If the App Is Free, It Means You and Your Data Are the Product

Once, it was people’s default expectation that they were the customer, and the products they were using were the products. Not anymore!

If you aren’t paying for the app, the app’s builder almost certainly regards the user as the product, and the party they’re selling your information to as the real customer. Entering into a relationship as a customer depends on there being a mutually-beneficial commercial exchange between you and the company.

Customers pay money to a company or business in exchange for something of value, and in this way, everyone benefits. But this isn’t the case when someone downloads a free app.

The business regards the marketer as the customer since they are the two parties engaging in a commercial exchange. What they are buying is your data and information. Ask yourself, if what’s being sold is your information, and that’s something you want to keep private, how can you safely use modern telecommunications?

Don’t be naïve about app permissions and your privacy by assuming third-party apps regard you as the customer when selling your data is their entire business model.

Real End-to-End Encryption

Getting a phone with military-grade encryption from ChatMail ensures that nobody but the intended recipient will ever be able to access what you are trying to send them or obtain any other information on your phone.

With ChatMail, the user is never the product! Our product is world-class cybersecurity that makes it completely safe to use popular smartphone functions. ChatMail provides integrated end-to-end encryption with a custom-developed messaging protocol known as “ChatMail Advanced Messaging and Parsing Protocol,” encompassing both our PGP and Elliptical Curve Cryptography.

A user needs a private key that only they have on their phone to access and decode the messages sent to them. The Key Exchange utilizes the Double Ratchet Algorithm, combining the cryptographic ratchet based on the Diffie-Hellman key exchange and a ratchet based on the key derivative function.

Without getting too technical, ChatMail is designed to give non-technical users the best security available, but in a way that’s practical. Historically, phones designed for maximum security were too cumbersome to use for everyday purposes, and sometimes required technical expertise most people lacked.

ChatMail offers users a wide variety of features they can use with one press of a button the way they would on other phones, only with significantly enhanced security:

  • Phone calls
  • Texting
  • Emails
  • Notes
  • Voice messages
  • Group chats
  • Anonymous group chats

All the functionality you’d expect from an ordinary phone is available only with world-class security too.

Security Beyond Encryption

Finally, comprehensive security entails more than just encrypting messages from end to end. Additional security functions on the phone work to ensure all your information remains private:

  • Duress and tamper-proofing: If the phone detects someone is trying to break in, all your sensitive data will be destroyed.
  • Self-Destructing Messages: Set a message to self-destruct, and it will vanish after a set amount of time. A message set to self-destruct can’t be saved, favorited, or forwarded.
  • Private keys never leave the device: Private keys are created on the device using random generated entropy, the strongest key pair possible. Your private key will remain permanently on the device.

Modern telecommunication security means knowing that the content on your phone remains confidential, except with the people with whom you meant to share this information. Whether you’re preventing a hacker from intercepting a message or ensuring that someone who stole the physical phone can’t access private information, your sensitive data will always remain confidential.

“Free” apps aren’t really free. The only reason they don’t charge you to download them is that they can make more profit by selling your data to marketers than they would make by charging you a download fee.

Articles used for reference: Source 1 and Source 2