Scan, track, and control how apps access your personal data

With Online Privacy Shield, you can scan the apps on your device, find out what information they're using, and control what each service can see.

Online Privacy Shield

More than likely, you have various applications installed on your smartphone that use your data. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Google, Dropbox, Flickr; they all access your user data in different ways. But how do you find out exactly what data each of these services use, and is there anything you can do to control that? Yes, and I'm here to tell you how.

There's a very handy, free app in the Google Play Store that will scan those apps, present to you exactly what information they are using, and give you easy access to controlling what each service can see. That app is called Online Privacy Shield, and it's a must-have for anyone seriously concerned about the privacy of their information. With a few taps, you'll know who has access to the information you share on various social networking sites. With a few more taps, you can revoke that permission. It's simple to use, effective, and ready to serve.

Let's take a closer look at Online Privacy Shield.


The installation process is as simple as any other application on the Android platform. Just follow these steps:

  1. Open the Google Play Store
  2. Search for "online privacy shield" (no quotes)
  3. Tap the entry for the app
  4. Tap Install
  5. Tap Accept

Once the installation is completed, you'll see the launcher for the app on your home screen. If you don't see the launcher there, open up your app drawer to locate it.


Using Online Privacy Shield is as easy as the installation. When you fire up the app, you'll see a screen that asks you to select a service to check (Figure A).

Figure A

Figure A

Online Privacy Shield running on a Verizon-branded Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD.

Tap the Select Services button, and then select a service to add. Once you select a service, you'll be re-directed to a login screen for that service. Upon successful authentication, you'll see Online Privacy Shield running the scan on the service. When the scan is complete, you'll be presented with the results of the scan. The results page will tell you how many apps have access to your information. After running a scan on my Facebook account, I was informed that 148 apps had access to my information. Tapping on the Show Me button offered the complete list of the apps that have access (Figure B).

Figure B

Figure B

Apps that have access to Facebook information.

To revoke permissions, tap on the particular app and then remove its permissions (Figure C).

Figure C

Figure C

How some apps gain permissions is beyond me.

Every service has a different interface for removing access. For example, the Google app removal screen (Figure D) is much different than the Facebook screen. With some, you must verify access revocation (such as with Facebook); with others, it's a single click (such as with Google).

Figure D

Figure D

Revoking permissions from a Google account.

Other than adding services, there's only one user-configurable setting available for the application. If you tap the menu button in the upper right corner of the main window, you can enable/disable the application startup at boot. Other than that, it's a fairly single-minded application that offers little configuration but a lot of usefulness.

If you're looking for a quick way to revoke access to many of the usual social-networking suspects (access you may not even remember giving), you can't go wrong with Online Privacy Shield. I was honestly surprised at how many apps had access to my information and spent the time necessary to clean that mess up. Now, my information is only made available to those sites and services I've deemed valid.

What other apps do you recommend that uncover permissions and information access? Share your expertise in the discussion thread below.

By Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic, The New Stack, and Linux New Media. He's covered a variety of topics for over twenty years and is an avid promoter of open source. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen....