In this new era where our lives are powered by smartphones, it’s become more common for humans to track various aspects of our lives with the latest apps.  Rendering pencil and paper tracking obsolete, digital technology is ushering in a new era of smartphone-based tracking for fitness, sleep, finance, weather and even the health of our pets.

For example, in a single day, a person may track their sleep cycle using a sleep app, then track their breakfast in a health and fitness app, check their finances with a personal investing app, navigate traffic with their GPS app, count steps or monitor their exercise with their fitness device’s app, and check off various items on a to-do list app.  Apps can also help users with things as simple as monitoring what’s in their fridge. 

Why are we so drawn to these apps that help manage our quotidian life?  Humans crave routine and structure, says New York psychiatrist Dr. Gail Saltz.  Living a predictable lifestyle and adhering to a routine can make us more productive, but of course it also makes us feel more stable and creates a sense of familiarity in our daily tasks.

Smartphone-based tracking in the 21st century

Today’s newest apps are helping us better live our lives by enabling us to track just about every aspect of them.  However, micromanaging our lives using smartphones can also make us vulnerable to cyberattack.  For example, in March 2018, the popular fitness and health app MyFitnessPal experienced a data breach, compromising 150 million user accounts.  The MyFitnessPal app, owned by the sports apparel brand Under Armour, became vulnerable to hackers who were able to steal users’ passwords due to a flaw in the system.  Incidents such as this serve as a reminder that apps can be helpful, but they can also be the targets of cyberattack, which can compromise users’ safety.

How to stay safe in the era of tracking

Although it’s impossible to predict what apps will be the next target of hacking, you can take some steps to stay safe while using these tracking apps.  Avoid using public WiFi networks on your phone, as they can sometimes be malicious networks designed to steal information you send through the internet.  Whenever possible, use two-step verification.  Two-step verification requires you input a texted or emailed security code in addition to your password to gain access to a website or app.  This can make it more difficult for hackers to access your account by obtaining your password, for example, in a data breach.

To keep your family safe on the web, set aside a time to discuss how you can be tracked online and educate your family about proper internet safety practices.  For example, remind loved ones that you should never share passwords or account numbers online, and discuss other ways to avoid being the target of a cyberhack.

While managing one’s life in the 21st century can be a challenge, app-based tracking can be helpful to those needing a virtual friend to keep them on their toes to meet their goals.  Learn more about the practice of smartphone-based tracking, including 20 popular apps that can help you track your life, and info on how to stay safe on your mobile device at Panda Security’s blog.