Android and privacy have not always been natural companions. Google still earns the bulk of its profits from its data-driven advertising business, which relies heavily on user information, much of which comes directly from Android users. Today, Google gives its users more authority over how and when the search giant uses Android-associated data by incorporating a number of security features and privacy protection into the software.
Many of the basic things you already know. Setting a strong PIN – or better yet, an alphanumeric password – to lock your device is a good start, and make sure you keep your device up to date with the latest security fixes. Additionally, protecting your Google Account with two-factor authentication can save you from even the most resourceful hackers. In addition, a number of Android’s built-in security features are turned on by default, such as verified startup, a feature that ensures that the device’s firmware has not been tampered with by malware, and Google Play Protect, Android’s built-in app scanner, which protects against malicious apps such as spyware and stalkerware.
Here is what else to consider. (Some settings may vary depending on your Android version.)
How to protect your digital privacy on Android
Uninstall unused apps
You are unlikely to use all the apps installed on your Android device. Not only can uninstalling your unused apps help free up storage space on your device, it can also dramatically improve the security of your device as these apps – even when not in use – can still run in the background, collect and then share your personal data.
Fortunately, getting rid of these so-called zombie apps is pretty straightforward. You just have to go to Google Play Storepressure Menuand select My apps and games. From here, you can select the apps you want to get rid of and remove them from your device.
2. Check your Android app permissions
Once you get rid of unused apps, you should also do a privacy review of the ones you use regularly to make sure they only have access to the things they need. To do this, go to Settingsthen Privacy and securityalso Permission Administrator. Here you can see exactly what data each app can access – be it location data or contacts – and have the option to restrict. In the case of location data, later versions of Android allow you to limit their accuracy so that you can still get results nearby, but without revealing your exact location.
3. Hide sensitive messages on your lock screen
By default, Android is set to display all of your message content on your lock screen. This means that if your device falls into the wrong hands, they may be able to see sensitive information – from private messages to two-factor codes – without having to enter your device’s PIN or password.
Fortunately, you can choose to limit the amount of information displayed on your lock screen. IN Settingsgo to Privacy and security and press Messages on the lock screen. While by default it is set to Show all sensitive contentit is possible to change this to Only show sensitive content when unlocked – which will filter your messages and only show those that are considered “not sensitive” on the lock screen – or to Do not show notifications at all.
Surf the web with more privacy
Google Chrome is the default browser on Android, and Google’s Safe Browsing mode is enabled by default. A feature called Enhanced Safe Browsing significantly increases your protection against dangerous downloads and malicious websites, but at the expense of collecting more data about your browsing activity that some users may feel uncomfortable with – especially considering that Google already has enough of our data .
You can turn it on using Chrome menu with three dots at the top right of the browser, then open Settings and go to Privacy and security and Safe browsing. From here, you can turn on Enhanced Browsing.
There is another option: Switch to a completely different browser. There are several privacy-focused browsers available in Google Play that offer more protection than Google’s standard offerings, from Brave to Firefox. You can also adjust your search engines to DuckDuckGo, a popular privacy-friendly search engine that does not log search queries, and the Tor mobile browser, which anonymizes your browser history and helps users circumvent censorship.
Before you go, you should consider:
- Make sure Find My Device is set up: Like iOS, Android comes with a built-in feature called Find My Device (formerly Android Device Manager), which lets you track your device if it gets lost or stolen. It also comes with a “Lock and Delete” feature that prevents anyone from accessing your device data by letting you remotely lock your device and delete its data.
- Deselect ads: Ads track you everywhere on the internet. If it’s not sites that track you, it’s the apps themselves. One of the best ways to prevent this kind of targeted tracking is by opting out of ad customization – which uses data collected from your phone to show you ads that it thinks you might be interested in. You can do this by go to Settingsso go to Googlethen Ads to turn it off. You must also press Reset Advertising ID as this will separate your device from your ad profile.