It is no mystery that everything we do online leaves traces behind. Our mobiles seem to be the most knowledgeable tool on that matter, since we carry them everywhere with us and they silently keep track of everything we do. Why is that, you ask? Well, our personal information is probably one of our most valuable assets, whether we’re aware of that or not.
On the one hand, our details can be used for advertising purposes. If you fill in your email address somewhere on the Internet, don’t be surprised if you start receiving unsolicited emails trying to convince you to buy a product you never showed interest in. Also, if you happen to google a random word, such as “backpack” or maybe use it in a hashtag on a social media channel, expect to be targeted with Facebook/Google ads for backpacks almost immediately afterwards.
On the other hand, all the info you leave behind online can be used as evidence in a legal action, if that is the case. Maybe you decide to look up online the most extremist groups throughout history – out of pure curiosity or maybe you wish to write a book on the topic. This info can be used against you should you ever be involved in a lawsuit.
Last but not least, let’s not forget about hackers. Apart from simply stealing your credit card details used on an unsecure app/website and using them to make payments in your name, they can claim your personal identity and use it as their own.
All this (and not only) can be done using the data our mobiles learn about us. Here are a few tips & tricks leave less behind and keep more to yourself:
- Google Maps & Location Reporting
Google Maps knows exactly where you are or you’ve been and is not afraid to share. But there is a way to delete your history and disable future tracking.
To check if you have location history is enabled, head to your Google Maps Timeline, after logging in to your Google account. In the section below the map, you will see whether location history is on or off and you will also be able to pause it, if it is on.
But let’s go beyond Google maps. There are other apps using your location. You can also which apps are using location services on your iPhone by going to Settings > Privacy > Location Services.
On Android, go to Settings > Location > Google Location Reporting. For Location Reporting, tap the slider to turn it off.
- Your Web History
Every time you search the web, your browser takes note, as well as third parties, such as advertisers, your employer and maybe many others, if you are online via a public WiFi.
To clear your web history, here is what you need to do:
On an Android device, open the Applications drawer (typically, by tapping a button in the dock at the bottom of your Android home screen), tap the Google Settings icon (it looks like a gear), tap Account History, tap Web & App Activity, and finally tap the Manage History button. Here you will find your entire Google web history, stored throughout time.
To delete a large part of your web history – or all of it – tap the Settings button (the one shaped like a gear) just below the Search box, tap Remove Items, then choose how much to delete: the past hour, a day, a week, a month, or absolutely everything.
You can also put your entire Google web history on pause by unchecking the big On setting at the top of the main Web & App Activity screen.
If you are using an iPhone, the Safari Web browser keeps a log of Web pages that you have visited in the past. To remove all your history, open your Safari browser by tapping on the Safari icon, normally located on your iPhone Home Screen.
Now click on the Bookmarks button, located at the bottom of the screen. Select the choice labeled History, located at the top of the menu. Then, tap on Clear to delete your history records.
Make a habit out of repeating this endeavor on a timely manner.
However, there is a simpler way to stop storing your browsing history and also no longer have it associated with your IP. CyberGhost is a free VPN you can download on both Android and iOS devices, which will keep you completely anonymous online. No one will have access to your browsing activity, be they hackers, advertisers or governmental organizations/agencies.
- Voice Control History
Your mobile device keeps track of every voice command you give it – anything from “What’s the price of a ticket to the Bahamas?” to “Remind me to pick up the kids.”
If you are using an Android device, to gain access to a history of your voice commands, go to the Account History screen in the Google Settings app. Tap Voice & Audio Activity, then tap Manage History.
Now, tap the Settings button (shaped like a gear), then tap Remove Items. The choices are the same as they were for your web history: you can delete the past hour of your saved voice commands, the past day, a week, a month, or all of them.
On an iOS device, by deleting all your browsing history, you also delete your voice search history. Here is how you do that: quit Safari on your iPhone if you currently have it open; go to “Settings”; scroll down to Safari and select it and then click “Clear History”.
To clear the search history and deactivate Siri, go to “Settings”, select “General” and scroll down to “Siri”. Then disable Siri by tapping on it, go back to “Settings”, select “General” again, tap on “Keyboard” and disable the “Dictation” option.
Of course these are only a mere few of the actions you can take to stop your mobile phone, be it Android or iOS, from tracking you. We recommend going to each and every single app to see which privacy permissions you are granting (if you haven’t already done this upon installing each app).
Here’s the shorter path you can take to see the privacy permissions you are granting:
Android: Settings > Privacy and safety > App permissions
iOS: Settings > Privacy
Also, we highly recommend installing a VPN such as CyberGhost, to fully encrypt your Internet activity and safeguard your personal data. For thorough protection, across all your digital activities, the Premium version is recommended, but the free version is also a great starter kit.