One bad App can spoil the bunch, AG warns


LITTLE ROCK – Nowadays consumers use their phones for just about everything, from ordering a pizza to finding their way around town. Software applications known as “apps” give users the ability to shop, play games or check the weather forecast with ease.

More than two-thirds of Americans now own a smart phone, and new mobile apps are being created and downloaded every day. Most apps offer convenience and utility, though Attorney General Dustin McDaniel urged consumers to download apps only from trusted sources. Some apps may contain malicious software or allow for improper access to sensitive personal information.

McDaniel issued this consumer alert to encourage Arkansans to be selective about the types of mobile apps they download on their smart phones.

“Arkansas consumers should make sure they are downloading apps created by developers that provide information about their companies and that have positive reviews,” McDaniel said. “Especially as students go off to school and to college, parents should know what type of apps are on a child’s phone or tablet. Most apps are designed to make our lives easier, not make them difficult by installing malware or stealing data.”

The Federal Trade Commission recently found that certain mobile shopping apps have some shortcomings as it relates to providing information to consumers. An FTC report released earlier this month said that mobile commerce apps need to do a better job describing how they collect, use and share consumer data. Frequently, shopping apps offered unclear information about consumer liability in the event of an unauthorized purchase or a purchase made in error.

McDaniel said the FTC report on shopping apps illustrates the importance of consumers finding out as much as they can about a particular app before downloading it.

The Attorney General offered these tips to smart phone users:

• Read the fine print. Some apps may access phone and email contact lists, call logs, text messages, calendar entries and Internet histories. If an app doesn’t have a privacy policy or contact information or a website for the developer, it may be best not to download the app.

• Be aware that some “free” apps contain advertising within the app. Others may offer “in-app” purchases or may make available a more advanced version of the app for a cost.

• Consumers concerned about sharing their location data with advertisers can turn off location services in phone settings.

• If a device has been infected with malware, consumers should contact customer support for the company that made the device, notify the mobile-phone service carrier and install a trusted security app.

• Keep apps up to date by installing new versions or upgrades when they become available. These may contain security fixes.

• Parents should talk to children about rules for using apps and try the app out for themselves before allowing an app to be installed on a child’s phone or device.

Details: Visit the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division website, www.GotYourBackArkansas.org, or call (800) 482-8982.