I’m a privacy expert. Here’s how to stop your phone from bugging and spying on you right now

Data Protection Officer Gaël Duval, manufacturer of Murena smartphones (Image provided/Murena)

Data Protection Officer Gaël Duval, manufacturer of Murena smartphones (Image provided/Murena)

Most smartphone apps collect your data continuously, no matter where you go or what you say to Siri and Google Assistant.

Companies then sell this data to advertisers, which is why it sometimes feels like you’re being recommended ads for products you mentioned in passing.

Data Protection Commissioner Gaël Duval said: Luckily, it’s possible to change the settings to keep this from happening.

Murena believes there are measurable benefits to this: He says poor privacy and personalized ads directly contribute to increasing the amount of time people spend online, making impulse purchases and even worsening mental health problems – the more tech companies know more about you, the more targeted they will target your advertising to you.

Research by TASO in 2022 found that 79 percent of people were worried about online tech companies using their data, and 65 percent felt uncomfortable about sharing their data to use services for free.

Trinity College research from 2021 found that Android smartphones sent 20 times as much data to Google as Apple smartphones, although Google has disputed the research’s methodology.

Check which apps are using your data

Duval recommended that you review which apps are accessing your data and restrict their permissions to do so.

On iPhone, you can generate a privacy report that tells you which apps have accessed your data – go to Settings > Privacy, tap App Privacy Report and turn it on.

You can create a privacy report on iPhone (Apple)

You can create a privacy report on iPhone (Apple)

On Android, tap Security & privacy > Privacy > Permissions manager to see apps that have accessed your camera, for example.

Duval said: “Because using and selling user data is so lucrative, many apps collect your data, location tracking and access to cameras/mics are enabled by default, with vendors trusting people not to know they are being tracked will, or assume there is nothing they can do about it.” .

“For example, why would an arcade game need access to your contacts, camera, or microphone?”

Enable advanced privacy protection on iPhone

According to Duval, Apple’s cloud services, including iCloud, are end-to-end encrypted by default. That means your data isn’t completely private unless you update your security settings.

Duval said, “Apple released the Advanced Privacy feature, which enables end-to-end encryption for things like photos, notes, voice memos, iCloud Drive, and Siri shortcuts.” However, note that even with the feature enabled, Apple will still be on Your data in iCloud Mail, Contacts and Calendars can be accessed because this data is not end-to-end encrypted.

To turn it on, open the Settings app on iPhone, tap your name, then tap iCloud.

Scroll down, tap Enhanced Privacy, then tap Turn on Enhanced Privacy.

Stop using Google Maps

Google Maps collects massive amounts of data, and you should uninstall it if possible, Duval said.

Duval said: “It goes without saying that Google accesses your location when using Google Maps, but did you know that the app can also read personal contact information?” It can also record audio, read image and video files and communicate with AdServices – it has extensive access to private information and monetizes it.”

Google Maps collects a large amount of information (Alamy)

Google Maps collects a large amount of information (Alamy)

Disabling location history on Android doesn’t stop Google from collecting your data — just by creating a timeline, Murena claimed.

Apple users should uninstall Google Maps – and Android users can disable Google Maps access to location by navigating to Settings > Location > Location Permission.

Turn off the voice assistant

Since voice assistants like Google Voice and Siri collect data, you should turn them off so your device doesn’t “eavesdrop”.

Avoid using voice assistants like Hey Siri if you can (AFP/Getty)

Avoid using voice assistants like Hey Siri if you can (AFP/Getty)

To do this on iPhone, open Settings, select Siri and Search, and turn off Listen for Hey Siri.

To do this on Android, go to Settings > Google > Google Apps settings > Search, Assistant & Voice > Google Assistant > Access your assistant and then turn it off.

Uninstall apps you don’t use

Regularly uninstall apps you don’t use, as they may be collecting data in the background, advises Duval.

Duval says, “It’s a good idea to delete unused apps on your device every few months.”

“Your data is likely to be sold for profit and used to tether you to your device.”

Drew Weisholtz

Drew Weisholtz is a Worldtimetodays U.S. News Reporter based in Canada. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Drew Weisholtz joined Worldtimetodays in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: DrewWeisholtz@worldtimetodays.com.

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