How to Use Your Phone’s Privacy-Protection Tools
Concerned about how your data is being used by apps and websites? Apple’s iOS 15 and Google’s Android 12 operating system have increased their privacy controls this year – giving you more warnings – and options – when a site or service wants to use personal information, such as location or browser clicks. Here’s a quick guide to those settings.
In iOS or Android, open the Settings app by tapping (or by voice) and select Privacy. You’ll find many screens, menus, and switches to block access to the phone’s hardware (like a microphone) and software (such as your contact list) on an app-by-app basis. Google 12 collects the Privacy Dashboard to show what apps are running in Android 12 and includes shortcuts to manage the information stored in one’s Google Account.
If you’re curious, Apple and Google have posted statements about how they use your data. Keep in mind that blocking web trackers and location information can make your free apps work differently, and many use news and cultural site tracking software. But if you want more control over your information, here are some specific categories to hit.
Your phone’s location can show your location on a service feature map, which is essential for providing driving directions. However, in recent versions of iOS and Android, you can share approximate location instead of exact location for a little more privacy.
On iOS 15 devices, open the Settings app and go to Privacy, then Location Services and then System Services. Here, you can disable or enable location services and control which third-party apps (including Google’s software) can use your index – or Ever They are allowed to use that information. Scroll down the list and select System Services to see how the iPhone uses your location, such as collecting your “important places” such as your home address; You can turn it off or erase history if you find it offensive.
On phones running Android 12, open the Settings app and tap Location to open Controls and see which apps are allowed to use your location. Tap Location Services to go to more settings; You can also manage a location history setting that records your wanderings. (Google’s business model includes the provision of customized ads and services based on your personal information, which may affect your user experience.)
Apps and ads
Apple’s app tracking transparency feature warns you when an app wants to monitor your online activity, especially for the purpose of targeted advertising. In iOS 15 settings, tap Privacy and then Tracking to go to Controls. (While Apple’s own advertising platform claims not to share personally identifiable data with others, you can block those ads in the Apple advertising area of privacy settings.)
In Android 12, open Settings and select Privacy to get multiple controls, including the Ads option to avoid targeted ads by deleting one’s Ad ID. And this month, Google announced that Android will automatically turn off permissions for apps you haven’t used for some time.
For decades browsers have been used to track you through cookies and other code that monitors your activity for use in marketing and advertising. (Safari’s private browsing and Chrome’s incognito mode prevent surfing sessions from being stored, but they don’t help much against browser trackers.)
Apple’s Safari browser includes tools for blocking tracking; Go to Settings, then Safari, and scroll down to Privacy and Security to make adjustments. Google’s Chrome browser settings also have a privacy and security section, where you can request that sites not track you, although some do.
Switching to a privacy-focused browser app like Brave or DuckDuckGo is another way to reduce many web trackers. DuckDuckGo recently released its own app tracking protection tool and email protection feature for the Android version of its DuckDuckGo privacy browser; These are in the public testing phase.
In some messages, advertisers may use “tracking pixels” – a small hidden image that notifies the sender when you open the message (among other things). Apple’s iOS 15 includes its own tool to help block mail trackers. To enable it, go to Settings, then Mail, select Privacy Protection and tap Protect Mail Activity.
In the Gmail app for Android or iOS, you can prevent images from automatically loading and noise from your activity. Just tap the Open menu icon in the top-left corner, select Settings, then your account name, and select the “Ask before displaying external image …” option in the image area. And you can block or unsubscribe from unwanted mailing-list messages at any time.
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