How to Protect Yourself From Mobile Data Collection

Across the globe, every single day, the equivalent of 90 years of HD video are disseminated around the internet every 24 hours. In bytes, that is the number 25 followed by nineteen zeroes. Information related to your preferences, your search patterns, your passions, and your relationships with others is collected by a variety of companies including social networks and search engines. Given that almost everything you do is being tracked in some way or another, it’s normal to feel exposed and somewhat overwhelmed with the prospect that everything you do is being put under a microscope. Here are a few ways you can minimize the amount of data apps collect from you.

I should make myself absolutely clear by saying that it is almost impossible to completely eliminate data collection as long as you have an account somewhere on the internet. You can only minimize the amount of data collected. If you are present on the internet you will have to live with the idea that you most likely will not be 100 percent in control of your information. For example, if you have an email account, that email is going to end up associated with other accounts you make on the web. The data will be directly tied to that email and with enough digging through databases, it is entirely possible to determine many things about you such as your product preferences and what you are likely to search for in the future based on your history.

Cookies are a great way to keep track of who is connecting to a web server. You can imagine how this is useful in differentiating between accounts and remembering personal preferences even for people who don’t have accounts. The thing about cookies is that they are also a great way to track your activity outside of a website. Tracking cookies, as they are called, give a website access to your search and navigation statistics, allowing them to provide even more personalized experiences. Facebook and Google do this a lot to cater to advertising preferences (e.g. if you browse a lot of sites about power tools, you may see a lot of advertisements for power tools).

If you do not feel comfortable with this much intimate information circulating about you, you should clear your cookies often. This works especially well if you use Facebook from your browser rather than using the official app. To automate the clearing of cookies, you can use Private (or Incognito) mode in your browser. When it is closed, the entire cache and all the cookies will be wiped.

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Your browsing history is still accessible to applications on your phone. It’s no secret that mobile apps have direct and intimate access to the phone’s internet traffic. While there’s nothing you can really do to entirely eliminate data collection from apps aside from uninstalling them, you can at least stop them from collecting that data for advertisements. We’ve already written tutorials on how to stop this on both Android and iOS, courtesy of Shujaa Imran.

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Google has become a behemoth in the world of tech products and applications. Its products are composed of nearly 2 billion lines of code and the company probably has the largest single data storage and acquisition infrastructure in the world. If you are using Android, there is no way to escape Google’s data collection since the operating system itself is written and distributed by the company. In iOS, you’re just switching Google over for Apple and in many cases, you’re giving your data to both.

But again, the idea here is to minimize the amount of data you send. One of the ways you can do that is to use DuckDuckGo (which is often associated with data privacy) as your default search provider in your browser.

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Smartphones are exceedingly good at tracking your daily habits, from the path you usually take on a morning run to the restaurant you eat at most frequently. Location tracking helps companies determine what places are most relevant to you and whether you would like to see advertisements with special offers from those locations. If you are concerned about data privacy, this should be one of the first things you turn off. You can start by disabling your GPS antenna. But your phone can still send data about the Wi-Fi networks you connect to, which can still assist applications with tracking your location. We’ve written a guide on turning off location tracking on your phone for both Android and iOS.

Be sure to leave a comment if you have any other tips that can help protect mobile users from app data collection!

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