This new personalisation app is quite like a social network. For starters, you have to sign up for an account. You can choose to log in using Google, Facebook or Twitter. On the app’s home, you can browse through wallpapers, ringtones and homescreens of users from all over the world. For wallpapers and ringtones, when you find one that you like, you can directly download it to your phone. When it comes to the homescreen setup of other users, you can view which launcher app they’re using, which icon pack and which widgets. You’ll also get download links for these from within the app itself.
If you like another user’s work, you can follow him/her and get updates whenever they post something new. You can also upload wallpapers and ringtones on your own profile to share it with other users. Compared to a typical wallpaper app, this is a good way to discover how people have customised their own Android phone. The only irritating bit is the persistent banner ad at the bottom. There’s no way to remove that at the moment.
iOS: If you’re having trouble finding a good parental control app in the iOS App Store, there’s a reason for that: MDM, or Mobile Device management. According to Apple, apps using MDM “incorrectly” pose serious security risk, and so the company is cracking down—but what does this actually mean?
What is Mobile Device Management?
Mobile Device Management (MDM) is a general term for any technology that allows one device to be controlled and/or monitored by another remotely. Parental control apps on iOS often rely on MDM as a means for controlling screen time, applying content filters, and collecting usage reports, because it’s the only way to obtain device permissions for these kinds of activities. Otherwise, your everyday app on the App Store can’t control your device to this great a degree.
This isn’t some newly implemented technology. MDM has been present on iPhone for years now, with Apple overseeing MDM certification for its devices and even controlling all MDM-based actions on iOS apps.
So why is Apple now so worried about apps using this feature in a way it wasn’t intended? The company now claims that apps with MDM can leave your personal data vulnerable and open to exploitation by hackers, hence the purging of parental control apps from the App Store.
On paper, the move makes sense. If an unwilling person is tricked into installing a certificate from a less-than-stellar app, they’ve just given over the keys to their digital kingdom—a privacy breach Apple would very much like to prevent.
“MDM does have legitimate uses. Businesses will sometimes install MDM on enterprise devices to keep better control over proprietary data and hardware. But it is incredibly risky—and a clear violation of App Store policies—for a private, consumer-focused app business to install MDM control over a customer’s device. Beyond the control that the app itself can exert over the user’s device, research has shown that MDM profiles could be used by hackers to gain access for malicious purposes,” reads a statement Apple published last last month.
Developers (try to) fight back
Several developers with parental control apps now affected by the new MDM policy have responded to Apple’s claims, and their arguments highlight some inconsistencies with Apple’s reasoning.
One app, OurPact, uses MDM to allow parents to set screen time limits on their child’s devices. OurPact’s developers released a statement using Apple’s own MDM documentation to refute the alleged security risks. You can read the full statement here, but the gist of the argument is that since Apple controls the entire MDM review process for iOS apps, properly vetted apps should not pose any of the risks Apple is warning against. As well, OurPact has been open about what it does and how it does it:
“OurPact’s core functionality would not be possible without the use of MDM; it is the only API available for the Apple platform that enables the remote management of applications and functions on children’s devices. We have also been transparent about our use of this technology since the outset, and have documented its use in our submissions to the App Store,” the company’s statement reads.
Some have suggested Apple’s actual reason for removing these MDM-enabled parental control apps is to curb potential competition with iOS 12’s screen time feature. However, other reports point out that many of the apps were purged for various other violations unrelated to MDM, like the prohibition on creating “an App that appears confusing similar to an existing Apple Product, interface, app, or advertising theme.”
If you ask us, the whole this is a net loss for Apple’s customers, even though it is the security-minded approach to take.
What Apple’s purge means for you
Policy disputes between Apple and app developers are one thing, but the biggest concern for iOS users—especially for parents—is that parental controls/screen time apps are being removed from App Store.
This would be less of an issue if Apple provided developers with its own API for controlling screen time, but it does not. More importantly, many of the removed apps like OurPact, Kidslox, and Qustodio included features that iOS parental controls do not—such as filtering web content on non-Safari browsers and cross-compatibility with Android. Their absence leaves parents with fewer options for monitoring their child’s screen time (though there’s debate over just how effective screen time limits can be).
Hopefully, the outcry from developers and the feedback from users will force Apple to at least open up a discussion about the future of parental control on the App Store. For now, however, you might as well settle for using the parental control features built into iOS 12. They’re not as robust when compared to the rival apps, but it’s probably your safest bet for locking down your kids’ activities right now. It might soon be your only one.
It’s a sad fact of our late capitalist world that data is one of the hottest currencies. Every move you make online–and sometimes off, too!–is likely being tracked in some way and then sold to the highest bidder. New research shows that even health apps, which often store users’ most personal information, are also sharing the data they collect. To make matters worse, for many of these programs, it’s simply impossible to opt out.
The study was performed by a team of researchers in Australia, Canada, and the U.S., reports Gizmodo. They decided to download 24 of the most popular health-related apps on Android. For each app, the team made four fake profiles and each used the programs 14 times. On the 15th time, they slightly changed the information they provided to the apps and tracked if the network traffic changed. This way, the researchers were able to see if the apps shared the data change, as well as where they shared it.
The findings were depressing. Writes Gizmodo:
Overall, they found 79 percent of apps, including [popular apps Medscape, Ada, and Drugs.com], shared at least some user data outside of the app itself. While some of the unique entities that had access to the data used it to improve the app’s functions, like maintaining the cloud where data could be uploaded by users or handling error reports, others were likely using it to create tailored advertisements for other companies. When looking at these third parties, the researchers also found that many marketed their ability to bundle together user data and share it with fourth-party companies even further removed from the health industry, such as credit reporting agencies. And while this data is said to be made completely anonymous and de-identified, the authors found that certain companies were given enough data to easily piece together the identity of users if they wanted to.
Essentially, most of the apps were sharing the data users’ input in some capacity, and often that information was shared once again with another entity. Sometimes the data would be used for advertising, other times for something related to credit reporting. (According to the study, only one credit reporting agency had an agreement with a third party: Equifax. Of course, it’s not terribly comforting that the company had one of the largest hacks in recent memory.)
The sad part is that these findings aren’t terribly surprising, nor are they illegal. Most apps broker user data in some capacity. Usually they use it for marketing and advertising, yet, as the credit report agency example shows, the data could be shared with truly anyone for myriad purposes. While third parties claim to anonymize the data, it’s been repeatedly proven that it can easily be re-identified.
The two real lessons from studies like these are that users of digital health programs need to be vigilant with the programs they use. It’s possible to protect your data, but it takes a lot of homework. But most of all, there needs to be a heightened call to protect consumers from these predatory practices.
Today, we dig deeper into your health privacy as part of our series The Privacy Divide, and find that what you don’t know about your health data could make you sick.
NEW DELHI: ET Money has clocked Rs 2,000 crore of mutual fund sales on its app, registering a nearly twentyfold increase in sales of the financial product over the past fifteen months.
The online financial services platform had started offering investors the choice to invest in direct mutual funds a few months ago and has witnessed exponential growth ever since.
“The growth in value of transactions is due to the pace at which we have launched innovative offerings for the customer and the addition of direct mutual funds to our platform,” ET Money’s chief executive officer Mukesh Kalra said. ET Money’s ability to provide customers a wide range of solutions, including loans to meet short-term funding requirements had increased the platform’s credibility and users confidence in the app, according to Kalra.
The Times Internet-backed company started operations two years ago as an app that linked into the user’s SMS log and enabled him/her to maintain a roster of monthly expenses. It has added multiple features to become a full-service financial services provider on the phone over time. Times Internet is a subsidiary of BCCL, the publisher of this newspaper.
Within a short span of time, ET Money has struck collaborations with over twenty asset management companies to offer a range of over 1,000 mutual fund schemes. It also has a tie-up with RBL Bank to provide loans to customers and recently introduced a liquid fixed deposit scheme that offers higher interest rates in comparison to traditional savings accounts.
“We are aiming to grow to Rs 5,000 crore of mutual fund transactions in the next 12-18 months,” Kalra said, expressing confidence that the movement towards investments in financial assets by people who have disposable incomes will create the right conditions for his business.
Over the last 18 months, ET Money has introduced a slew of industry-first offerings like SmartDeposit with Instant Withdrawal, Paperless KYC, One-tap Portfolio Buys, SIP Registration without First Installment and Option to Skip SIP Installments.
It has also launched a unique feature to enable existing investors save agent commissions on their existing mutual fund investments by instantly allowing them to switch to direct plans.
With an aim to play an integral role in a modern Indian’s financial life, ET Money has expanded its offerings providing instant personal loans through its app along with Insurance products via ETInsure. This has helped to grow it’s total transactions across all services to an annual figure of over Rs.2,100 Crores which is growing at 200% every six months, the company claims. The ET Money app is available on Android or iOS.