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The Mobile Monitor: Protecting Yourself From Stealthy Apps Collecting Your Personal Info

(credit: CBS 2)

(credit: CBS 2)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Think the personal information you have on your cell phone is for your eyes only?

Think again.

Everything from your contacts to your browser activity may be compromised every time you use your phone, but there are some ways you can protect your mobile phone from being monitored.

Whenever you download an app, do a search on Google or even play a game on your cell phone, you’re putting your personal information at risk.

“It is a lot like going into a library, except in the virtual world, the library is following you around basically and it is tracking anything that you are looking at, anything that you are interested in,” attorney Carl Schwenker told CBS 2′s Asa Aarons.

Schwenker said 12 Internet companies, including Google, Apple and Facebook, are stealthily collecting your address book without your knowledge every time you download one of their apps on your cell phone, including Foursquare, Twitter and Yelp.

Now, Schwenker is one of three attorneys behind a federal lawsuit charging consumers have the right to know when their private information is being disseminated.

Consumers, like Joshua Brown, who  are on smartphones all day, are concerned.

“I don’t want my information in, you know, 40 years to be brought back up to see what I was doing when I was 26 years old,” Brown said.

And it’s not just cell phone apps, search engines also keep tabs on your cell phone activity. Every time you hit enter, they can create a profile based on what you click during a search.

The lawsuit, which was filed in March, wants regulation to protect consumers. In the meantime, there is an important step you can take to protect yourself. Apps typically require permission to access your personal information, so make sure you know what you’re agreeing to.

Some phones may also let you encrypt your personal data, which can also offer additional protection.