South Africa’s Wireless Application Service Providers’ Association (WASPA) says millions of mobile users are potentially putting themselves at risk by not reading the associated terms and conditions when downloading an app.

WASPA has previously cautioned cellular users to be “app-aware” so that they do not automatically grant app permissions without properly thinking about what they are doing. They should question why an app would need access to information unrelated to its function, WASPA says.

“Legitimate app stores now expressly indicate the presence of ads within downloaded apps. App permissions like contacts being accessed are now also routinely and visibly indicated. Unfortunately, accessing specific terms and conditions usually requires mobile users to navigate to external websites where lengthy legal agreements are hosted,” explains Ilonka Badenhorst, WASPA GM.

“Anecdotal evidence suggests most consumers do briefly scan the bullet pointed app permissions, but very few of us analyse the often overwhelming terms and conditions before downloading an app,” Badenhorst adds.

There could be serious implications later on. Downloaders of popular facial aging apps should not be surprised if they later see their own image displayed on clickbait advertising having granted permission to the app developers to do whatever they want with uploaded images in terms of an “irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully-paid, transferrable sub-licensable license.” Did we mention “perpetual” as well?

So much information is stored on smartphones that fraudsters have realised this information could be very valuable in exploiting the end user.

WASPA advises consumers to be wary of apps that:

  • Have onerous terms and conditions that seem to wind on forever.
  • Use terms not commonly seen in legitimate end user license agreements such as “perpetual” and “irrevocable”.
  • Mention vague third-parties that no not appear to be easily-identifiable.
  • Related to the above, app terms and conditions that seek to transfer your rights or intellectual property on to others are to be approached with caution.

“Mobile users should remember they have the power to choose which permissions to give and which legalities to agree to and they should exercise this authority with due regard for their privacy, personal security and financial wellbeing,” says Badenhorst.