When it comes to your mobile device, it may feel like you’re in control. You decide what type of phone fits your budget, which pictures to store and what apps to download, all with very few restrictions. So what happens when that control is taken away?
Recently, WhatsApp, a mobile app that provides instant messaging to users via Internet connections, was banned in Brazil. The app, which is owned by Facebook, is used by about half of Brazil’s residents as it offers a cheaper alternative for communication compared to the costly cellphone services in the area.
When WhatsApp wouldn’t provide information pertaining to a criminal case, a judge closed access to it drawing anger and frustration from not only its users, but Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, as well.
Although the ruling was overturned quite promptly, it left behind an even bigger question: If a mobile app can be shut down, without your consent, what happens to the data?
When WhatsApp was banned, the court order forced Internet service providers to block access to the app. Alternatively, if they had wanted to, Facebook could have shut down the service. In fact, many apps that you may use daily can be shut down in the blink of an eye.
We depend on mobile apps for our daily lives, but there are no laws protecting users from either the government or the provider shutting down the apps. If an app is shut down without consent, it’s important to know that the data stored in the app is protected. Although we hope that this will never happen to you, we’ve outlined a few guidelines to help you keep your data safe if this situation should occur:
- Read the app permissions and know what you are agreeing to when you download an app. If your app is shut down, what can the app do with the data you no longer have access to?
- Backup your data. This is a good practice for any device, in any situation.
- Think twice before sharing personal data. Would you really want certain information you put in a mobile app in the hands of the government or a corporation?
As an extra precaution, you can also download comprehensive security software which allows you to wipe your device.