Work & Career
8 Creepy Things Your Smartphone Knows About You
With passcodes, passwords, and location tracking, smartphones collect hoards of data on users. Here’s what you should know about everything they know. (Hint: It might be time to change some privacy settings.)
Every place you’ve ever been
Both Androids and iPhones have internal tracking devices that can see your location at any given point. Hidden in the settings of iPhones and Androids lies “Location Services.” If yours is switched on, your phone has likely built up a pretty long list of places you’ve been. This feature does use up a lot of battery life, so many users have it turned off. However, some apps like Uber or Airbnb turn it on when you authorize them. And all this information your smartphone knows about you is helpful to hackers, according to these secrets hackers won’t tell you.
Everything you’ve told Siri
Apple collects data from Siri to “understand you better and recognize what you say,” according to the software license agreement. This can track anything from the way you pronounce words to the trends in Siri searches. However, the information Siri learns is connected to your phone with a random ID––instead of your Apple account––to ensure anonymity.
Your personal IDs
The China-based Android smartphone company OnePlus was found using personal identification information (like device passcodes) from its users. They explained themselves, saying that they used the info to improve the user experience, and thankfully rolled back the privacy breach. But they shouldn’t have been invading users’ privacy, especially when it comes to such sensitive information. And after the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal, it makes us wonder if other tech companies are hiding things from their users. Oh, and if you’re still uncomfortable about Facebook’s creepily accurate advertisements, here’s how to turn them off.
Have you ever logged into an app or website on your smartphone, and when prompted to save your password, you’ve answered “Yes”? We’ve all been there. It’s convenient and easy for the sites we visit to remember our information and save us the time it takes to login. However, do you really want Google, your smartphone, and some of those sketchy websites storing your information? Maybe not. Try the old fashioned way—just write down your passwords in a computer doc or, even better, with paper and pen (just don’t lose it)!
Every message you send
If you’re an iPhone user that deletes texting/iMessage conversations, here’s a surprise: Those conversations are probably still around. Apple keeps messages in an encrypted form “for a limited period of time” before they actually get deleted, just to “ensure that they get delivered and read properly.” The only thing is, Apple didn’t disclose how long “a limited period of time” is. Maybe it’s five minutes, but maybe it’s years.
All the information you’ve given to Google
Androids are powered by Google apps (think: Chrome, Play Store, Gmail, etc.). As soon as you sign into your Android with your Google login, your phone is linked to all of your other Google accounts. Once you’ve logged in, your phone has access to everything Google does, including the length and type of your phone calls, your device, where you are, and more. Luckily, there are ways to keep Google from creeping on your location data.
How fast you’re traveling
Have you ever received an iPhone notification that said, “It will take you ___ minutes to get to [insert frequently visited location here]”? Creepy, right? This goes along with location services. Not only does your iPhone track your location, but it also takes down the time you arrive and leave. So it does the math on how long it takes you to get places, and then it sends you those notifications when it notices a trend. If that’s more creepy than convenient for you, turn your location services off in the settings. Just make sure apps you’re using, like Uber or Facebook, have location services turned off as well.
All the information you’ve given to your apps
There are a slew of apps that cater to both Android and iPhone devices that track hefty amounts of data from their users. If you go into your smartphone settings, you will be able to control the amount of information these apps receive. However, some apps like Facebook require you to control your settings within the app. Be aware: Sometimes when you change these settings, the accessibility of the app decreases. For example, if you turn location services off on Facebook, you will not be able to use the “Check In” feature on the app. As if these things weren’t scary enough, your phone is only one of several things in your home that could be spying on you.