How to distinguish between good and dangerous free applications

It’s easy to find appealing free applications and services that, however, can hide dangers for your privacy, your phone, or your computer. Maybe not a virus, but you may be a victim of dark patterns: as we explained yesterday, these are techniques at the legal limit put in place by online companies to push you to spend more or extort your sensitive personal data. How to defend yourself from these questionable practices? We need open eyes, good sense and some trick we are now explaining to you.

Try to understand where the app earns money

Few things in this world are truly free. You have heard it a lot of times: if you’re not paying for something, you’re the product. In other words, your personal data is abundantly collected and sold to third parties that can use them as they like. It’s important to try to figure out how a free app earn its money: is there advertising? Are then in-app purchases? Is there a premium version with more features? There are many quality open source apps that are free, but there are many more ones that instead try to turn you into a product. If an app or service shows advertising, in-app purchases, and so on, then you can trust them a little more because the revenue comes from these sources.

Read the reviews

On all App Stores, there are user reviews for each application. For more sophisticated services and software, you can look up internet reviews and blogs or trusted journals. Before downloading something for free try actually to read these reviews: among the many false comments, you’ll surely find valid opinions that stand out for a more objective description of the product. A good way to skim the false comments is to look for the cruelest reviews with the lowest rated score. It will be so easy to find unreliable services or small scams.

Check the terms of service

Since the Internet exists, we know that almost no one reads any terms or conditions. We are accustomed to consent without even scroll through, but it would be useful to take some time and to read them. It’s true that sometimes it’s not easy to understand everything, but if you do not trust a particular app or free service, it’s better to figure out if we’re downloading something that hides nasty surprises. You can search online for terms of service for a particular software or app.

Take a look at the permissions required by app

Quite often, applications require permissions to work, such as the ability to access the camera and the photo roll. We usually allow permission without asking too many questions, but it is important to investigate more thoroughly. By going to your smartphone settings, you can find a Permission related item: open it and check who gets access to it. Permissions can be revoked without any problems.

Do some research on the developer

Searching the Internet for a particular developer can reveal many skeleton in the closet. Look for an official site linked to the app and developer, as well as social profiles like Facebook and Twitter. The more a developer puts his face on it and works in the sunlight, the more you can trust him.

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