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10 of the Most Popular, Badly Behaved Apps and Why You Should Never Install Them

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We learn at a young age that what’s popular isn’t always right. 

In a technological world with millions of featured apps, it’s tough to know what’s safe to download. Are all popular apps well-behaved? Should we base our decision to download an app on the number of total downloads and high ratings? 

The truth is, some popular apps are like characters from Mean Girls. Everyone wants access to them, and they appear polished and user-friendly. Yet, their behavior is awful. Many of the most popular apps can contain security issues–unsolicited access to personal information–or bandwidth issues that drain your battery. 

What are some of the most popular yet badly behaved apps? And why should we stay away from downloading them?

Just to be on the safe side

Appthority recently published an analysis on Android and iOS apps avoided by enterprises. The results include applications most of us use regularly. The analysis ranks popular smartphone applications based on security risks.

 An app with a rating of 1 poses the least amount of risk, while an app with a rating of 10 poses the greatest, “I’m being hacked!” level of risk. Popular apps such as Words With Friends and Weather made the list, and each featured app holds a ranking between 6-9. Yikes. Before you throw away your smartphones and computers and hide out in a mountain cabin, we thought we’d highlight some of the apps to avoid, and why.

10 popular apps to “Just Say No” to installing

1. Facebook

The social media giant and its Meta-verse have faced a myriad of issues throughout the years. Some issues–like Russian bots and fake profiles–have been addressed and no longer pose a significant threat. Nonetheless, some long-time Facebook users have opted out of Zuckerberg’s world and used other apps for their online social needs. For those of us who remain so we can look at photos of Aunt Sue’s cats or connect with friends who’ve moved, we should make ourselves aware of Facebook’s bad behavior.

Facebook has access to all of the personal information we store on our phones and has been named one of the worst apps for privacy. Our cameras, contacts, and GPS location are among the data mines that explode every time you open Facebook on your phone. 

2. WhatsApp 

WhatsApp is extremely popular in European and Asian nations. The app provides an easy way to connect with personal and business contacts internationally for free. Although privacy issues arise with WhatsApp, it’s still a widely used form of communication with large corporations.

In 2021, WhatsApp changed its privacy statement to better connect with Facebook. Although many users balked, the changes remained. WhatsApp currently allows a wide swath of default data collection, but users can manually turn these features off.

3. Pokémon Go

Sometimes, you just want to shrug off your worries and go find Pickachu. The hype surrounding Pokémon Go has waned considerably over the past few years. However, the app has done little to address security risks, and as of 2021, hackers may still be able to use Pokémon Go to hone in on a user’s location.

4. Weather Apps

We rely on weather apps to plan our days. Some weather apps include witty comments about temperature, others come chock-full of weather history. The majority of smartphone users have at least one weather source connected to their phones. However, weather apps prove easy to build and often demand access to our personal information. A 2019 Wall Street Journal article points out the invasive and buggy nature of third-party weather apps.

5. Multiplayer games

Games like Words with Friends can prove addicting, but also want too much of our personal information. Why does a word game need our photos? The games are prone to data miners and can crash often as well.

6. Obscure Voice Recorders

Your newly-purchased smartphone often comes pre-installed with most of the software and universal apps you’ll need. You may have to play around with your phone and dig through it to find them all, but chances are, they already exist.

Apps like antivirus and firewall software, music and video players, and yes, voice recorders already live on your phone. Although you may find downloadable recorders with favorable reviews, you’re better off avoiding these altogether. Many voice recorders come with hidden malware or Trojan  viruses that can harm your phone and steal your banking information. It’s also unlikely you’ll find a better voice recorder app than the one your phone already possesses.

7. Facebook Messenger

Facebook’s companion app has been rife with bugs for years. Messenger crashes often, and along with data mining, it’s prone to hackers. Those “YoU wOn’t believe this video” messages? They crop up often in Messenger and manage to escape Facebook security measures. Given the vulnerability to hacking and the overwhelming amount of data collected it’s not worth it. 

8. Boyfriend Tracker

The name of this popular tracking app belies its bad behavior. The app allows you to track your loved ones and promotes distrust. Extremely popular in the decade since its inception, the Boyfriend Tracker has issues that go beyond its installation. However, once installed, the Boyfriend Tracker can also breach the security of the app owner. While we’re distrusting and tracking our partners, hackers can easily track our movements too.

9. Virus Cleaner – Antivirus Free & Phone Cleaner

With millions of downloads, Virus Cleaner seems like a safe bet for smartphone app installation. Nonetheless, it’s an unnecessary addition. Most phone carriers pack our phones with multiple safety and antivirus protocols. Why download what we’re already getting with our phone package? Ironically, Virus Cleaner-Antivirus Free & Phone Cleaner is jam-packed with ads and can put your phone at risk.

 10. WeChat

China’s top-ranked social media application comes with a litany of issues. WeChat is an app that longs to be a “go-to” for multiple application capabilities–think Facebook, Instagram, and Uber all on one app.  It’s a must-have for Chinese citizens living overseas, but international WeChat use is restricted. 

In the US, WeChat use was banned by President Trump under Executive Order 13943. However, the Executive Order hasn’t taken effect. The involvement of the courts in the WeChat ban is ongoing, and not yet resolved.  

For those new to WeChat, installing the app may prove problematic. The app has collected massive amounts of personal data and poses security threats.  

Is any app completely safe?

Every time we download an app, we open ourselves up to potential bad app behavior. Many apps may ask to access our personal data. Some popular apps with stellar behavior need this information to work properly. We should confine our app installation to those which allow us to modify our security settings. The Forrester Wave for Static Application Security Testing is an excellent, free tool for those who desire to take extra measures before getting stuck with badly behaving apps.  

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