Privacy is a major concern whenever you use the internet, but is even more of a concern when you are using software and apps that may deal with personal issues.  Here are some of the things to consider:

1.  What information do you need to provide to use the app?

Some apps can be used without having to enter any personal data.  Other apps either give you the option or require that you enter a lot of personal data.  Consider only entering enough data to make the app functional for your use – often you can effectively use an app without having to enter all the data they suggest.

2.  Privacy policy

Does the app or website have a privacy policy?  If so, we strongly suggest that you read it, especially if you are entering personal information on the app.  We have put a link to the privacy policy in the description of each app on this site, where a policy is available.

Privacy policies can seem long and intimidating to read, but the main things you should look for are:

a.  what data do they collect?

b.  do they share your data with anyone else?

c.  do they notify you when they change the privacy policy?

Note that most privacy policies have a provision that the company can change the privacy policy at any time, and you won’t be notified that they have changed it.  So if you are using an app where you enter a lot of your personal data, re-read the privacy policy frequently.  And while having a privacy policy is important because it offers you a lot of information about the company policies, it provides no guarantee that the company is well-fortified against hacking or other problems.

Here is a typical privacy policy which we have annotated to help you identify the key items.

3.  Basic precautions

Whenever you use the internet, these are general precautions to follow – you may already be familiar with these:

a.  use a different password for each of your accounts

b.  use a strong password – include letters, numbers, and symbols

c.  don’t access your account over connections that are not secure, like a shared line at a coffee shop

d.  if you get an email that looks like it is from the company, it might not be.  Check it out by going directly to the company site, rather than clicking on a link in the email.

e.  have good virus protection on your computer which is updated for the latest threats

g.  keep your operating system up to date with the latest security patches