PHOENIX — Most people don't realize how long they are on their phones each day. We use certain apps for things like networking, shopping, and almost everything else.
One recent study found when you shop on Amazon, connect on Facebook or browse on Google, you may be giving up a lot of personal information.
"Any app that you are using is collecting some information about you," said Chandra Steele.
Steel is with PCMAG.com and says most people don't know that by installing a phone app you agree to terms beyond what you may think you agreed to.
One example is thinking you're just allowing an app to access your photos.
"They don't realize that also included in the things they agreed to are their browsing history, their search history, things they purchased, financial information, health and fitness data," she said.
Steele points to a recent survey done by the VPN company Surfshark.
They compared data collection of 200 phone apps in 18 different categories from messaging and shopping to food delivery and dating.
Facebook came out on top as collecting the most data, including Facebook Messenger and Instagram, which Facebook also owns.
The study found Paypal, Amazon, Doordash, Linkedin, Tik Tok and YouTube were all near the top of the data collection list.
Many times, your information is collected and sold to other companies.
"All of this data is being cross linked to form a profile about you," Steele said.
Sellers can take that information and bombard you with products you may have searched, products they know you might like.
The bigger issue is what else the apps can access on your phone and where it could end up.
Information on your phone, like sites you visit, finances, passwords and personal pictures, can be taken, sold, resold and sold again.
Steele says your data could end up with someone or some company which is not as careful with it.
"You could be the victim of ID theft because so much data is out there," she said.
So, protect yourself.
If you determine a phone app is useful, check for ways to opt out of sharing information before installing.
If already installed, check your settings to see what can be accessed.
"On an iPhone, you can go into privacy and an Android, you go into applications and notifications," Steele said.
There, you can check to see how you're sharing your location, your photos, camera, your microphone and more.
"You can toggle that off so that at least limits some of the info you're putting out there," she said.
Surfshark also looks at alternatives to big data collectors in the same categories.
For example, it says DoorDash collects much more information than Postmates.
They found Amazon collects nearly double what Etsy collects, Paypal three-times more than Moneygram and Gmail collects five-times more data than the lesser-known Spike email.
Steele says it's important to remember, there's a price for a free app.
"If you're not paying for something, you are definitely the product," she added.
Bottom line, you can't stop this, but you can limit it if you think before you download.