Most people have at least a few apps on their phone (some have dozens) and you may download them without knowing too much about what it means for your privacy. Here are some tips from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada to make sure your personal info is protected when you download an app on your phone.  

What’s the risk?

Think about your phone, tablet, or laptop. There’s a chance that you keep a lot of sensitive information on those devices. For example, things like your address, your banking information, your photos, your text messages, or any emails containing important information. So, if you instill a harmful app there’s a possibility your personal information could be compromised.

Tips for downloading apps safely on your phone

1. Start by downloading apps from official or trusted app stores. When you download an app from a trusted source it offers you a basic level of assurance that you won’t receive spam messages or have your phone number exposed. So, be wary when downloading apps from other sources.

2. Read the fine print about your privacy. It may seem like a bit of work but take 5 minutes to read the developers privacy policy and the terms of agreement. Pay attention to things like what personal information will be accessed and how it will be used. If you can’t find a privacy policy, it could be a red flag that the app is not legitimate.

3. Pay attention to the permissions (and check back periodically). Cross check the permissions being sought by the app with what the privacy policy says. Are they the same? Carefully read the permissions before granting access to potentially sensitive features (location, contacts, device ID, camera, or media files). It’s important to check back periodically and read any “in-app” notices that explain the collection and use of personal information because it may change over time.

4. Lock your device with a password. This makes sure that a password is required to gain access to the personal info on your phone (including the info that your apps have collected).

5. Do proper app housekeeping. Keep your apps up to date. Out of date apps can be vulnerable and hackers may be able to exploit a security vulnerability that was fixed in a newer version. If you don’t use an app anymore, it may be best to delete it. If you are going to donate, sell, or recycle your phone, remember to erase your phone so you can keep your personal info safe.

Did we miss something? Share your favourite tips for downloading apps safely below!


Do you have questions about your privacy? Consider reaching out to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. They provide advice and information for individuals about protecting personal information. They also enforce two federal privacy laws that set out the rules for how federal government institutions and certain businesses must handle personal information.

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