Science

Give the gift of privacy settings through these simple steps

If you can't gift them an iPhone, this might be the next best thing.

Flickr / pabak sarkar

Ever since your parents got smartphones, it was game over. Now when you go home for the holiday season, the roles have reversed with parents constantly squinting at their bright phone screens and meticulously typing with one finger at a time.

Older family members have become just as addicted to their smartphones as the younger generation. However, some of them may not be as aware of the privacy risks associated with these devices.

If you’re not careful about privacy settings, smartphones can track your location, phone applications can have access to your camera and microphone at all times and constantly collect your data to target you with certain ads. So, it was no coincidence that three different brands advertised snakeskin boots on your timeline after you wouldn’t stop texting your friends to ask if you could pull them off.

Most of these features can be disabled by enabling the privacy settings of the phone, and checking what apps are allowed to access even when they are not in use.

While you are gathered with your family during this holiday break, give them the gift of privacy, by following a few simple steps as illustrated by Twitter user Matthew Green who also runs a blog on cryptography.

Matthew Green/Twitter

Don’t find my iPhone

Without GPS on our smartphones, we would probably all be going around in circles. However, as convenient as it is, GPS tracking is also one of the more invasive features of our devices. Not only does your phone track where you are at all times, but apps also have access to that information and often share it with third-party companies.

In order to disappear off their corporate grid, go to settings, privacy then location services. On there, you will find a list of apps that have requested to access your location. For ones that don’t necessarily require that information, like Facebook, switch the setting to ‘Never’ but for the ones that do, including delivery or taxi services, then switch it to ‘While using the app.’

Privacy, please

On that privacy tab, there are also settings related to your camera and microphone. When you take a picture, your location is embedded into that photo’s metadata which means that someone could find out where you are through that photo. You can disable apps’ access to the camera through the camera settings on the privacy tab.

You’ll find that plenty of apps have also requested access to your microphone, so disable those through the microphone settings as well because YouTube does not need to listen to you at any point.

The same goes for Bluetooth settings, which apps may use to track your phone as well.

Stop the ads

If you scroll way down to the bottom of the privacy settings, the very last tab is ‘Advertising.’ One thing most people are not aware of is that the iPhone gives you the discrete option to limit advertising targeted at you.

If you switch on the tab, ‘Limit Ad Tracking,’ then your phone will do just that. That doesn’t mean you won’t receive ads on your phone anymore, but it will limit the amount of ads that are targeted directly at you by collecting your information.

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