MSU-developed app helps iPhone users navigate privacy

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> STARKVILLE, Miss.–Robert Crossler may be an expert in information systems, but he’s got a project that even the novice tech user can appreciate.
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> A new app developed by the Mississippi State University assistant professor in the College of Business, along with France BĂ©langer of Virginia Tech University, is helping iPhone users make knowledgeable choices about their privacy settings.
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> The “PrivacyHelper” app, available in the App Store at https://appsto.re/us/4iLA5.i, is designed to give users information about various privacy options and even uses audio directions to walk them through changing the settings if they desire. Crossler said it’s not an app for everyday use, but those who use it even once may gain increased peace of mind about how and when their personal information is being shared.
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> The iPhone includes options for location-based services, which Crossler said does cool things like “geotag” pictures. Linking geographic information with a photo can be a useful function, Crossler said. But he explained that users may find geotags problematic if they share photos on social media and those files include specific geographic information that they prefer to keep private.
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> “When you’re uploading your pictures to social media, you may not realize you’re giving away that information,” Crossler said.
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> The PrivacyHelper app is designed to clarify this and similar privacy issues. In addition to privacy settings for location-based services, the app helps users navigate settings for system services, shared app access, browsing privacy and ad tracking. One of the primary objectives of the app is simply to inform by conveying to users what the settings do and why.
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> Crossler said system services collect information from users while they operate their mobile device. For example, traffic data may be collected when users employ Apple’s map. PrivacyHelper explains regarding traffic, “When this setting is turned on, your iPhone anonymously sends traffic-based data to Apple to help build a traffic database. This information is used to help provide real time traffic conditions to mapping apps.”
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> Crossler said many of these functions “aren’t a bad thing” — but he believes users should be aware of how their information is being used so they can make their own decisions about whether to participate in that information sharing.
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> He said the ad tracking function allows advertisers to track what users like and dislike. “If you leave this function on, you’re basically giving away information about yourself to be used for customized advertising,” he said.
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> “Our goal is to make people aware of the settings on their iPhone and what they do so they can make an informed decision,” Crossler said.
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> MSU is Mississippi’s flagship research university, available online at www.msstate.edu, facebook.com/msstate, instagram.com/msstate and twitter.com/msstate.
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