Technology Training

8 things your smartphone knows about you

With passcodes, passwords, and location tracking, smartphones collect hoards of data on users. Here’s what you should know about everything they know. (Hint: It might be time to change some privacy settings.)

Every place you’ve ever been

Both Androids and iPhones have internal tracking devices that can see your location at any given point. Hidden in the settings of iPhones and Androids lies “Location Services.” If yours is switched on, your phone has likely built up a pretty long list of places you’ve been. This feature does use up a lot of battery life, so many users have it turned off. However, some apps like Uber or Airbnb turn it on when you authorize them. And all this information your smartphone knows about you is helpful to hackers.

 

Everything you’ve told Siri

Apple collects data from Siri to “understand you better and recognize what you say,” according to the software license agreement. This can track anything from the way you pronounce words to the trends in Siri searches. However, the information Siri learns is connected to your phone with a random ID––instead of your Apple account––to ensure anonymity.

Your personal IDs

The China-based Android smartphone company OnePlus was found using personal identification information (like device passcodes) from its users. They explained themselves, saying that they used the info to improve the user experience, and thankfully rolled back the privacy breach. But they shouldn’t have been invading users’ privacy, especially when it comes to such sensitive information.

 

Your passwords

Have you ever logged into an app or website on your smartphone, and when prompted to save your password, you’ve answered “Yes”? We’ve all been there. It’s convenient and easy for the sites we visit to remember our information and save us the time it takes to login. However, do you really want Google, your smartphone, and some of those sketchy websites storing your information? Maybe not. Try the old fashioned way—just write down your passwords in a computer doc or, even better, with paper and pen (just don’t lose it)!

 

Every message you send

If you’re an iPhone user that deletes texting/iMessage conversations, here’s a surprise: Those conversations are probably still around. Apple keeps messages in an encrypted form “for a limited period of time” before they actually get deleted, just to “ensure that they get delivered and read properly.” The only thing is, Apple didn’t disclose how long “a limited period of time” is. Maybe it’s five minutes, but maybe it’s years.

 

All the information you’ve given to Google

Androids are powered by Google apps (think: Chrome, Play Store, Gmail, etc.). As soon as you sign into your Android with your Google login, your phone is linked to all of your other Google accounts. Once you’ve logged in, your phone has access to everything Google does, including the length and type of your phone calls, your device, where you are, and more. Luckily, there are ways to keep Google from creeping on your location data.

How to turn off location services on an Android device

  1. Open the Settings app on your device.
  2. Tap either the “Connections” tab or the “Privacy” tab (the label is different on different devices, some devices just skip to the next step.)
  3. Choose “Location.”
  4. Toggle the switch to off.

How to disable location tracking on Google

Turning off location services on your Google account will ensure that none of your devices, Android or otherwise, are tracked. So if you have more than one device, this option is better. Here’s how to:

  1. Go to your Google Account.
  2. Click “Data and Personalization” from the menu on the left.
  3. Select “My Activity.”
  4. Choose “Location Services.”
  5. Toggle the switch off.

How do I turn off Google location sharing?

There are several reasons why your phone shares its location. The most important reason is for emergency services to be able to locate you. You can turn off Google location sharing without turning off the Emergency Location Settings. Here’s how:

  1. Open the Settings app on your device.
  2. Tap either the “Connections” tab or the “Privacy” tab (the label is different on different devices, though some phones skip this step and go straight to step 3).
  3. Choose “Location.”
  4. Scroll down to “Google Location Sharing.”
  5. Tap it and toggle the option off.

How to disable Android tracker for specific apps

“Any app that has been given permission to leverage the tracking services on your device—including by tracking your IP address which is extremely common—is performing some kind of location tracking,” shares Ray Walsh, a digital privacy expert at ProPrivacy. “Huge numbers of apps track your location in one way or another, and even if an app does not have access to your GPS location it still may be tracking your location using your IP address.”

To turn off tracking on apps individually takes time, but the process is pretty simple. Depending on what type of phone you have, here’s how to do it.

or Samsung Galaxy:

  1. Go to the Settings app.
  2. Select “Apps.”
  3. Tap the menu (three dots at top right).
  4. Choose “Permission Manager.”
  5. Tap “Location.”
  6. Choose an app.
  7. Turn off the location permissions for each app.

For Pixel phones:

  1. Go to the Settings app.
  2. Tap “Location.”
  3. Choose “App Permissions.”
  4. Choose an app.
  5. Turn off the location permissions for each app.

For a Huawei phone:

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Tap on “Apps & Notifications.”
  3. Choose “Permissions.”
  4. Tap “Your Location.”
  5. Choose an app.
  6. Turn off the location permissions for each app.

Can I delete my location history?

To delete the location history created by Google Services all you need to do is go to the Delete History page and click “Delete History Location.”

To remove specific dates, times, or locations, go to the calendar in the top right corner of the Timeline page, select a date, then an event/location from said date, then press the three gray dot icon. Select “remove stop from day,” and your phone won’t remember that you were there. To delete a whole date, hit the trash bin icon next to the date, and then it’s gone forever.

You might also want to take a look at your Google My Activity and clear that, too. Law enforcement officials can subpoena your location data from your Google timeline, opening up a gratuitous amount of information about your day to day activities.

 

 

 

How fast you’re traveling

Have you ever received an iPhone notification that said, “It will take you ___ minutes to get to [insert frequently visited location here]”? Creepy, right? This goes along with location services. Not only does your iPhone track your location, but it also takes down the time you arrive and leave. So it does the math on how long it takes you to get places, and then it sends you those notifications when it notices a trend. If that’s more creepy than convenient for you, turn your location services off in the settings. Just make sure apps you’re using, like Uber or Facebook, have location services turned off as well.

 

All the information you’ve given to your apps

There are a slew of apps that cater to both Android and iPhone devices that track hefty amounts of data from their users. If you go into your smartphone settings, you will be able to control the amount of information these apps receive. However, some apps like Facebook require you to control your settings within the app. Be aware: Sometimes when you change these settings, the accessibility of the app decreases. For example, if you turn location services off on Facebook, you will not be able to use the “Check In” feature on the app. As if these things weren’t scary enough, your phone is only one of several things in your home that could be spying on you.

These include, laptops, smart TV’s, Smartphones, Voice Assistants, Health Devices, Security Cameras, Thermostat’s, Refrigerators, Dishwashers & Coffee Machines.

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