Everyone loves their smartphone. Everyone loves the newest app. Angry Birds has lots of company now. But most people don’t know the back end of apps and how they are accessing, using and selling your data. Why? Because no one reads the Privacy Policy and Terms of Use to figure out how they are accessing and using your data.

The most common features of apps that affect your privacy are the use of the microphone, location based and geolocation services, and access to personal data, like your photos, contacts and health information. Whether you care or not, just be aware of the data apps have access to, are using and selling, and make an educated choice about whether you want them to have access or not. This week, we will focus on apps’ use of your location through location based services.

First, you need to know which apps have requested to track you (and to which you agreed) when you downloaded the app. Touch settings on your phone and go to Privacy. Location based services is listed and is automatically on when you buy an iPhone. Why? Because Apple wants access and has access to your location and requires it for Find Your iPhone. But this means that Apple knows where you are at all times and is selling that data to advertisers so they know which cities you visit, which restaurants you go to, which supermarkets you visit and in general, your minute by minute location. If you browse down location based services, the apps that are following your every step are listed there. Some allow the app to only follow your location when you use their app, but many others automatically track you whether you are using their app or not.

Sound creepy to you? Then my suggestion is to turn your location based services off unless you are using a particular app that requires it. When you are finished using the app, turn your located based services off again. If it is off, none of your location data is being accessed, used or sold by the app developer.

When you download an app, read the fine print on how they are going to access and use your data, including location based services. I have refused to download apps if they won’t give me a choice about using my location. There is usually another app that does the same thing and respects my privacy.

Real story: a friend downloaded a trendy retail app and as she was walking by one of their stores in a mall that was located in another state than where she lived, the app pinged her to tell her that they were having a sale in that location and since she was walking by, she should stop in and check out the sale. Needless to say, it freaked her out and she called me to find out how they knew she was in that mall. Of course, she had her location based services on, and had agreed for the app to use her location based services at all times when she downloaded it. She hadn’t read the pop up information, and just clicked “I agree.”

And if you aren’t creeped out, just be aware of what apps are asking for and doing with your data, and make educated choices when you allow access to your location.