How To Keep Your Privacy on Android

by Brandon Ackroyd - , Last Updated on December 15, 2016, How To Guides

Mobile phones are more than a modern day convenience or an entertainment device. For many companies and even government organisations, mobiles are an effective way of tracking a person, their location, their likes and dislikes, and even their conversations. Whilst many people accept that this lack of privacy is worth the convenience of having a phone, others don’t, even though they may have nothing to hide. Unfortunately, there’s no way of making a regular mobile 100% private (you’d need to buy an expensive secure phone for that, and even then you might not be completely hidden). However, there are ways of preserving some of your privacy if that’s the way you’d prefer things. Want to be as private as possible on your mobile? Then these are our top tips…

Use a Burner Number

Whether you like it or not your phone number is directly connected to you and your identity. Tracing a phone number is not incredibly difficult, which means that you might want to consider using a burner number. This is a number that is randomly generated and yet will ring on your phone if someone calls you on it. There are tonnes of reasons to use a burner number, maybe you’d prefer to have secret conversations and not be tracked, or maybe you’re selling something on CraigsList and don’t want to give your real number. Luckily, getting a burner number is as simple as downloading an app to do the job for you. Apps like CoverMe and Hushed are both excellent for getting a new, temporary phone number should you need one.

Use Secure Messaging

Let’s be honest: most of us use our phones for messaging and SMS far more than we use them for making calls. Messaging is a cheap and convenient way to get in touch with people. But most messaging services (whether that’s SMS or some other chat client) are unencrypted. This means that it’s easy for others to find out who you were talking to and what was said. The solution to this is to use an encrypted message service.

You’ve got a couple of options here. The most private are to download an app like Signal or Telegram, both of which provide full encryption and mean that neither your messages nor the destination number can be uncovered. However, both of these do require a data connection to use. If you’d rather have an app that’s more like an SMS app (meaning you need mobile service not necessarily an internet connection), then something like the app Silence would be a better choice. Be aware that with Silence it’s simple to find out that you sent a message and who you sent it to, but the actual contents of the message will be encrypted.

Use a Secure Browser

If you’re a Google Chrome user you’ll know that the browser saves everything you do, including all the sites you visited and keywords you searched for. This can be pretty convenient since it means you can bookmark things and visit sites repeatedly, yet Google uses a lot of this information to find out more about you. From your searches Google can make a good guess about your age and likes, and using the information you’ve entered into sites can know plenty of other things too, like your birthday and marital status.

Google isn’t the only culprit here, most internet search engines track your info. But if you’d prefer to search the web with more privacy, then there is a solution. The new web browser DuckDuckGo doesn’t keep any data or info about you, letting you surf in peace…

Navigate Offline

Most of us use Google Maps for our navigation needs since it’s easy to use and installed on most phones by default these days. However, again, Google uses information from this app to track you. It knows where you’ve been, how long you’ve spent there, and can make guesses about your buying preferences and even where your friends and family lived based on your location. Again, Google isn’t the only culprit, Apple Maps, Waze, MapQuest, and most regular navigation apps do the same thing.

The easy solution here is to use an offline navigation app, and there are a fair few of them available. You’ll need an internet connection to download the app and choose the approximate location you need (choosing the UK, rather than, say, France), but then you should be good to go. Need recommendations? Then check out Sygic or OsmAnd, both great offline map options.

Miscellaneous Options…

Other than the big things mentioned above, there are a few other smaller tweaks you can make to better preserve your privacy. A good Password Manager app should help keep your passwords secure, by which we mean not only hidden but also complex enough that they’re difficult to guess. You should also avoid using things like family photos and the like as the wallpaper for your phone (yes, companies like Google are able to access your phone wallpaper, and depending on the picture you choose may be able to insinuate things about you like your marital status or location).

You might also want to go into your social media apps and disable the location services option that marks your posts with a location. For the truly privacy conscious, social media apps are far from private choices, and you might want to consider eliminating them from your phone altogether… Finally, App Stores on most major brands of phone track your purchases and downloads. If this bothers you, then try using alternative app stores like F-Droid, though remember there’s always a risk of downloading viruses or malware with third-party app stores.

The above tips won’t ensure complete privacy, but by being more careful with your choices you can retain a little a few of your secrets. Having a mobile phone does mean giving up some of your privacy rights, however, that shouldn’t mean that you can’t keep some things to yourself!