Privacy’s been in the spotlight for more than a year now. From apps screen-recording our phones without us knowing, to Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica data scandal, it seems like we just can’t catch a break.

Measures were taken by the companies, of course. Facebook has blocked apps from accessing users’ data after 90 days of non-use, and Apple made apps either disclose or remove the code that recorded your screen, in some cases revealing passwords or sensitive information.

But you’re confused.

Why is Privacy on Your Phone Such a Huge Issue Anyway?

You’re thinking, “What’s the big deal? I get targeted ads only what. Also got nobody steal my identity.”

That’s what I thought, too.

As someone who gets targeted ads and who sometimes uses a platform like Facebook to target ads, I couldn’t understand the implications behind the loss of privacy.

But because smartphones are everywhere nowadays, it carries a wealth of data that can potentially (and very creepily) be exploited by third parties.

Privacy’s a huge issue, even if you don’t see it.

girl using phone
Image Credit: Oleg Magni | Unsplash

You may be looking to escape the clutches of companies selling ads to you.

Or maybe you don’t want any internet giant knowing things about you and your family that they could potentially use or sell.

Personalised information on smartphones can be useful, but they can also be a double edged sword.

Which brings us to this: protecting your data on your phone.

How to Make Sure Your Privacy is Protected on Your Phone?

It’s not just apps you have to reevaluate.

Take steps to protect your personal and sensitive data since some services you use are across different platforms.

Use a Reliable Password Manager For Your Passwords

hand holding phone on passcode lock
Image Credit: Neonbrand | Unsplash

It doesn’t matter if it’s your Instagram, your bank account, your Netflix login details, I bet you reuse a lot of your passwords.

I know it’s difficult to set different passwords. What if you forget all of them?

But setting the same passwords sets you up for a huge data breach.

My email once got hacked and I had to change all my passwords. Otherwise, whoever got ahold of my password could potentially login to my bank accounts.

No one wants someone else to spend your hard earned money.

You could also do it the old school way and write your passwords down. But with the myriad of internet services these days, that could be easier said than done.

*Pro Tip: You could also set up OTPs so it’s more difficult to login to your account with just a password. The only downside is if they send OTPs to your phone number and you’re overseas, it might be more of a hassle to log in.

Be Careful of Which Wifi Network You’re Using

Free Wifi Inside sign
Image Credit: Bernard Hermant | Unsplash

Here’s a scenario: you’re overseas and desperate to post your latest Instastory.

Do you login to whatever seems like a free wifi network?

While it might be tempting to get free wifi, it’s best to a) get a SIM card for all your data needs or b) check that the network is an actual public wifi service similar to Singapore’s [email protected]

*Important Note: If you’re on public wifi, don’t key in sensitive information like credit card details or bank account logins.

Stop Apps From Tracking Your Location

man using google maps on phone
Image Credit: Nesa by Makers | Unsplash

In December 2018, The New York Times showed how location data could be tracked to the precise place you’re at.

Though the data is linked to a unique ID and not a name, it could also be easy to figure out who the person was just by where they went.

Sometimes apps are also not as transparent as they should be when it comes to using location services for marketing purposes.

The best way to combat this is to turn off location services on your iPhone or Android phone (you can easily do so in your settings).

*Note: If you’re using something like Grab or Foodpanda. it wouldn’t work without location turned on.

Use a VPN

vpn
Image Credit: Markus Spiske | Unsplash

VPNs are not the be all end all of privacy measures. But they’re great for giving you that extra layer of encryption between you and your internet service providers.

VPNs are also useful for when you have to connect to public wifi since you’re bouncing your data off somewhere else.

The best option, according to The Verge, is to make your own VPN, but if you’re not technically savvy (like me), be sure to find a VPN company which is as transparent as they can be with their customers.

Use a Private Browser Like Tor Instead

Google Browser open on macbook
Image Credit: Agnieszka Boeske | Unsplash

Mozilla Firefox, Ecosia, and Brave are other options as well, but Tor really acts like a VPN of its own.

It routes you through a whole list of servers so it’s really hard to track you.

We spend a lot of time on our browsers, even on the phone (I have had 500 tabs open at one point), so using a secure browser can help keep everything hush hush.

Browsers can be used to block ads and trackers as well (which is another way you can save money on your data plan).

Can You Really Protect All of Your Data on Your Phone?

Kashmir Hill of Gizmodo did an interesting experiment (there’s a video, but the article goes into what happens in depth) where she blocked out 5 of the world’s tech giants from her life. No more Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Facebook.

She enlisted the help of a technologist to build a kind of super VPN to block out these services to see if she could really live without their footprints in her life.

But the experiment proved that it’s become increasingly tougher to live without technology, and the companies they’ve become synonymous to.

man in mask holding laptop
Image Credit: rawpixel | Unsplash

 

While you don’t want your data to be stolen and used maliciously, it’s pretty much impossible these days to starve off technology and live off privacy.

Tech and the larger internet connects us to more people than we know.

There are solutions on the horizon. Privacy focused phones like Purism’s Librem 5 and Silent Circles’ Blackphone are both ultraprivate phones that have emerged to meet our demand for more security.

Sharing some of your data isn’t all bad — you could get discounts or personalised recommendations from your favourite retailers.

Just make sure your most sensitive information is on lockdown.

What do you think? Will you take more precautions with the data you’re providing to your phones?

As for me, I’ve already taken my first step to data protection: trying out a new internet browser on my phone.

*Featured Image: Rawpixel | Unsplash

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