There's a lot of talk at the moment about the app that the Government want us to use to trace who you've come into contact with around COVID-19 and some of the initial feedback has related to concerns around access to your data. Actually, this could be said for an awful lot of apps that we all have on our smart phones or websites that we access to shop online. Do we ever take the time to read the privacy notices properly or if we do, do we really understand them?
Regardless of what happens to your data in the hands of corporate machines, there are other aspects of apps that we can easily manage ourselves. For example, apps like Whatsapp and Snapchat (among others) contain location features which, if you are in a healthy relationship, actually don't matter and when you're keeping in touch with your friends are quite useful and fun. But the fun stops when an abusive partner, ex partner, family member or someone you don't actually know uses them to keep tabs on your whereabouts 24/7. The fun then turns into stalking which, as anyone who has been a victim of stalking will tell you, is not fun at all and in some cases is very dangerous. Safe Lives produced a quick guide to staying safe online which you can find on our planning to stay page. Checking permissions on individual apps, and turning some features off, together with changing passwords regularly are basic things we should all do.
Of course there are also apps such as Headspace and Chill Panda that are useful to help us focus on our mental health, keep it balanced and to help cope with anxiety. These kinds of apps are particularly useful at the moment when having to spend a lot of time at home might be causing additional stress. There are other apps that help to keep us safe, such as the Hollie Guard app which alerts a trusted friend or family member if we need help. The Bright Sky app enables information and evidence to be stored if we are living with domestic abuse or sexual violence. These last 2 apps may not be appropriate or safe to use if you are in a situation where your mobile device is checked.
If you use alcohol or substances to help you cope with anxiety, stress and every day life, and you want to manage this or safely reduce the amount you use, the Breaking Free Online app might be a useful tool for you.
No matter what you need an app for, there will nearly always be one available, but check permissions on each one regularly and remember that updates will often change settings. Use the good apps, be careful of the permissions and steer clear of the dodgy apps. The reviews on the download store should give you a good idea of which ones to avoid!
*We are not qualified to recommend or endorse any of the apps listed, and you should make your own enquiries to satisfy yourself as to the security of any you use.