The downside of apps

Diri has spoken about the use of apps in several different media this autumn. Why do we think it is so important?

— It is primarily about the fact that most of us should think a little bit more about what kind of information we give out and to whom when we use different apps, says Gaute Wangen, CTO of Diri. — In addition, we are concerned with awareness of the information we receive in return and general security around user accounts.

Collection of information

TikTok is an example of an app that offers a popular service but which, behind the scenes, collects large amounts of information about its users. That is not particularly unique, but this app is problematic because a Chinese company owns it, and the information collected is sent to China. — We must assume that the Chinese intelligence service has access to all the collected data. Considering that China is not one of our allies, this is not unproblematic, Wangen believes.

For the “man in the street”, what the Chinese know about you may not be of great importance – but you should know that they know. — When you reach a certain decision-making level or have a socially critical role, it becomes an entirely different matter. In the worst case, the information you give up through an app can pose a security risk, says Wangen.

The Norwegian Minister of Justice and Public Security Emilie Enger Mehl has received criticism in the last six months because she uses TikTok. In an article in Dagbladet this autumn, Gaute Wangen stated the following: — It is not good that our top leaders risk sharing sensitive information via apps with other countries’ authorities. The issue was also highlighted in, among others, NRK, Aftenposten and TV2.

Polarisation and psychological operations

It is not only the information extracted that can be problematic; it also applies to the information we receive in return. — Through the information extracted, a profile is formed on the users, and the algorithms ensure that you get customised content back, explains Vebjørn Slyngstadli, CEO of Diri. If you do a Google search for shoes, ads for shoes suddenly appear on your social media. It is not only ads that are controlled but also the content. If you are particularly interested in a type of content, the algorithms will ensure that you get more similar content in your feed – simply so that you will spend more time there. — This means that you get a less nuanced angle which can lead to a more polarised society, says Slyngstadli.

Even more serious is that many channels (especially social media) are used for psychological operations (psyops). This means that users receive carefully selected information so that their feelings, thoughts, motives, opinions and decisions can be influenced. — This manipulation can affect large masses of people and is one of the most significant risks at a population level, says Wangen.

Protect your accounts

Most of us have probably improved, but some still have a way to go regarding securing the user accounts they have in various apps. — Firstly, you must have unique and strong passwords for each account, explains Wangen. — The second is that you must activate two-step or multi-factor authentication within the app; if this does not appear automatically when signing in. This means that the account is protected through at least two stages, a password and, e.g. a one-time code via SMS. — This is easy to implement and increases safety considerably, concludes Wangen. Feel free to read more about passwords and authentication in the nettvett-guide.

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