How To Protect Your Data On Your Android Smartphone
The new Android operating system is just around the corner with the beta. A good reason to go through the privacy settings in Android 10 again. A data protection guide for Android users.
Everyone knows that Google is not the best friend of data protection. In the end, the American mega-company is still earning its lion’s share through (personalized) advertising. An important commodity is your data, which Google keeps in most cases in its own systems.
In fact, Android and Google give you a lot of freedom to protect your data. That is the positive side of the coin. The negative is that by default Google gets the most out of your data when it comes to advertising finance. In addition, you have to do without many useful features if you do not want to share your data with Google.
1. Uninstall Unused Apps
The fewer unused apps you have on your smartphone, the fewer back doors and risk factors there are logically on your smartphone. As a by-product, the performance of your smartphone also improves – if only insignificantly. With the current version of Android, you have to hold the logo of an app longer so that the uninstall field appears. Alternatively, you can also call this field under “Apps” under “Settings”.
A good way to uninstall rarely used apps are the optimization apps, which are preinstalled on the smartphone as standard by many smartphone manufacturers. At Samsung this app is called “Smart Manager” and at Huawei “Optimizer”. Here you can see a list of which apps you haven’t used for a long time.
2. Check Google Account Permissions
At myaccount.google.com/permissions you can see which apps you have allowed to access data from your Google account. Depending on how you use your Google account and what access you have granted the apps, the apps can also access sensitive data. With this simple setting, it is worth rethinking.
3. Turn Off App Permissions
You can access the permissions under “Settings” – “Apps” – “App Permissions”. Here you can see all the permissions you have ever granted on your device. You will probably find that you can no longer assign the permissions exactly and probably that you no longer need them.
Permission is quickly granted if you need it. Therefore I would recommend to withdraw the authorization in case of doubt.
4. Pay Particular Attention to Data Sales
Many apps and services secretly sell your data. It is inconsistent not only for an individual which companies do this and which do not, but for the whole public. At least some things have improved since the corresponding scandals by Facebook and others, but for this reason it is still worth reading mobilegeeks.de and our colleagues.
Most recently, a major scandal of this variety became known to Avast, the popular anti-virus program. The company sold data to the usual suspects: Microsoft, Google and many, many more. Although there was no personalized data, the incident is not trivial.
Anyone who also uses a Samsung Galaxy must specifically object to the sale of their data.
You will find this option under “Privacy Controls”. In German, this might mean privacy settings or privacy control. On the screenshot you can see the English option “Do not sell”.
This refers to the mentioned sale of the data, which is switched on by default. So you have to use this option to refuse to sell your data. According to my research, this option is only available on the Samsung Galaxy. I cannot say definitively whether this also means that this only happens on the Samsung Galaxy …
5. Deactivate Personalized Advertising
At Google, personalized advertising is a system that analyzes your usage data internally and creates a more or less individual profile for you. This is how Google sells personalized advertising. Do not share or sell your data directly to third parties.
Some people like personalized advertising, others can do without and do not trust Google. It is clear that Google collects more money for this advertising than for standardized advertising and that you have the option of not receiving personal advertising.
6. Use VPNs
VPN stands for “Virtual Private Network”. Anyone connected to a VPN is a participant of the respective VPN for outsiders on the web. So if the VPN is in Turkey or in the USA, you are a user from these countries for outsiders. Since many people use these VPNs, they offer anonymity online. They work so reliably that even Chinese people can access websites and services that are actually blocked in China via a VPN across the Great Firewall.
However, VPNs offer their own risk: you have to trust your VPN provider. After all, they could sell your data as well or more extensively than other websites. VPN apps have sometimes even turned out to be malware and of course you should also be skeptical about free offers here. It doesn’t mean that paid VPN services can’t be corrupt. At least some of them have a good reputation to lose and many monthly customers. The best way to drive is to use multiple VPNs.
7. Use Other Browsers
If it is not enough to switch off personalized advertising, you can also access alternative browsers. The good old Firefox browser or the somewhat newer challenger Brave should be mentioned. However, there are certain trade-offs. Firefox is faster than Brave and even Chrome, but by default Firefox also sends you personalized advertising and tracks your usage behavior. You can counteract this with add-ons and appropriate settings.
Brave does not do this, has an integrated ad blocker, but sends you your own impersonal advertising as standard. The token model is very special. Brave got his financing model on its feet just last week. In the end, you have to decide for yourself here.
8. Reject Activity Recording
The activity records from Google are quite useful. If you use a Google account across different devices, this feature allows a seamless synchronization of your search history in Google and on YouTube as well as in certain Google apps.
It is very controversial but also useful that Google records your whereabouts by default. Has this worked for you and also for your predecessor smartphones of the past years? So you can see without exception all the places where you have been with these smartphones in these years. In Google Maps you can display this under “My timeline”, if you go to “World” for example, you will also see all your vacation and work places around the world.
In the Maps menu you can delete this history forever and reject the recording.
9. Exchange Gmail and Outlook
Many years ago, I couldn’t avoid using my Gmail address or linking my regular address to Gmail. For others, the Outlook address has been an important companion for years. Nevertheless, if you want to put a lot of emphasis on data protection today, you can’t avoid replacing your main email.
The latest craze in data-safe email is Protonmail. It encrypts each of your messages. The disadvantage is that you have to provide your email with a password and a hint if you send an email to a user who does not use Protonmail. Your increased need for data protection becomes so intrusive, whether that increases awareness or is just annoying, of course, you can only assess yourself. In the free version you can send and receive 150 messages a day – enough for the normal consumer. You also have 500 MB of data memory available.
10. Encrypt Calls And Messages With a Signal
Unlike Protonmail, signal is no longer a novice for many. This app replaces your standard call and SMS app and encrypts your conversations and messages. However, it only works in this way if your counterpart also uses signal. Otherwise everything runs as normal. In the meantime, the app has become widespread and a top recommendation.
11. Shut off Life Saver Applications
Ultimate lifesaver can be two features on Google: backups and location of your device. If your device is lost or stolen, you can use the location that you can find in your Google account under “Security” to find your device again. It can be valuable. On the other hand, you always have the ulterior motive that Google could always know where you are.
The other is Google’s backup function, which is stored in Google Drive. You have control over which data should be saved. An extremely useful tool, which at least backs up the most important data in the event that your smartphone is lost. However, there are also alternatives that are not operated by Google. Here, too, you may have to consider that you may have given some apps access to your drive or Google account (see point 2).