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Tech Tips: How to disable or delete unused apps

You may have heard about the recent Apple FaceTime bug. A flaw in Group FaceTime posed a risk of video and audio eavesdropping. Some people don’t even use FaceTime, yet this flaw could still be used against them.

The flaw has since been fixed by Apple, but it serves as a reminder that we should all disable or delete apps we don’t use.

It doesn’t matter what kind of phone you use, because unused apps pose the same risks. Ideally, you want to keep only those apps that you actually use. Unfortunately, some apps and services can’t be uninstalled.

In that case, you want to disable their features as best you can. Start by taking inventory of what’s on your phone. You may be surprised to see what’s there! Apps you tried once and never used again, apps you forgot about, apps you don’t remember installing. If you choose to uninstall an app, the data also will be deleted, so that’s something to consider when deciding which apps should stay or go.

Only keep apps if you really, truly use them. Some apps may allow you to export your data, but others may not have that capability.

If an app is outdated or no longer supported by the developer, consider deleting it. An unsupported app means it’s not getting vital security fixes that could protect you from flaws like the Group FaceTime eavesdropping bug. Similarly, if the app has known security issues, consider not using it. You can find this out by searching for the name of the app and “security” or “privacy.”

You should also check the developer’s site to find out what their privacy policies are. If an app has a bad track record, that’s a good reason to think twice about keeping it on your phone (or installing it in the first place).

To delete an app on an iPhone, press and hold on the icon, then click X. You’ll be reminded that deleting the app will delete its data. You also can delete apps via iTunes.

To delete an app on Android, go to the Play store and tap the app you wish to remove.

To disable features on apps that can’t be installed, such as those that come with your phone, check for a Settings feature in the app itself, or look under your phone’s Settings menu.

There are lots of fake and lookalike apps out there. It’s important to scrutinize any apps you use, preferably before you install them. Again, searching for the app name and “security” or “privacy” will give you an idea of the developer’s track record. Once an app is on your phone, there’s a possibility it may start siphoning all of your contacts, photos and other data, whether or not you want it to.

Only obtain apps directly from Apple’s App Store and the Google Play store, and only those from reputable, well-known developers. When in doubt, don’t install. Even supposedly reputable apps have been known to siphon data.

Keeping your phone’s system software updated is crucial. In particular, if you haven’t already, be sure to install the latest Apple updates to fix that FaceTime bug.

• Triona Guidry is a computer specialist and freelance writer. Her Tech Tips blog at www.lightningtechsupport.com offers help and advice for Windows and Mac users.

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