Though Android is not always credited for its features, or not best known for its privacy or security, It has come a long way since its inception and is the best mobile operating system currently on the market. However, While Android is as safe as IOS, if not less for quite a few years now, One of the few areas that Android lags behind IOS, its only major competition is privacy. Especially in the lower end of the spectrum where Chinese OEMs ship a tonne of bloatware, and third-party bloatware by default. But Android is Android, and so is tweakable beyond Limit, and adjust a few Simple dials, you get among the most privacy-friendly devices.
If you are an Android user who values your privacy and security, you might be wondering how to protect your personal data and get more privacy. In this post, I will share with you 10 steps that you can take to achieve ultimate privacy on your Android device. These steps will help you to get better apps, block unwanted ads and trackers, prevent location tracking, and more. By following these steps, you will be able to enjoy your Android experience without compromising your privacy.
Table of Contents
What privacy are we hoping to achieve?
In this post, we are not showing how to make your Android phone the MOST privacy friendly, although we will discuss it briefly before we go on with the post. This is because, privacy does take away most of the creature comforts that we have come to enjoy over the years, and for 98% of the users, going all-out on privacy might not be the best thing to do, due to the various caveats extreme privacy brings, in the current tech environment. In this post, we are going over things that a normal user can do with minimal consequences. I use most of these myself, but if you want some features on, then it is totally up to you.
Are you worried about your privacy on your Android phone? Do you want to keep your personal data and online activities away from prying eyes? If so, you’re not alone. Many people are concerned about their privacy in this digital age, where companies and governments can track and collect information about us without our consent. That’s why I’m going to share with you 3 steps for ultimate privacy on your Android phone. These steps will help you protect your identity, browsing history, location, and more from unwanted access. Let’s get started!
Steps for Ultimate Privacy
1. Extreme mode
The most privacy you can get is by living off the grid, even though you won’t have mobile phones, laptops, or any modern technology, the world will know the least about you, other than the local government, people might not even know or remember you, let alone track you. won’t recommend this level of privacy though, as this kind of life will suck for most of us. A slightly better version of the same, dubbed the “Dumbphone movement” is popular in many communities, where you live with people, and do what most people do, except for using smartphones/ other such devices that connect to the internet.
Although this is mainly to reduce social media and smartphone addiction, it is inherently privacy friendly, but without cutting you entirely off the grid. You still can call, have text messages, or even take pictures and use WhatsApp, but only that much. Still, for most people, this is not the way to go, as living in this tech-riddled world without access to the internet can be hard. For context or more information, check Not smart but clever? The return of ‘dumbphones’ – BBC News
2. Intermediate mode
This step consists of what most really privacy-conscious people, whose job/life depends on their security and privacy use. we can use most modern apps, like using the internet/apps, but in a much more privacy-centric fashion. It is not easy though, many things that we need no time for might be a hassle for them, as their features are extremely limited. The steps usually include, but is not limited to:
- Installing a custom ROM without any bloatware or third-party Apps, like Graphene OS
- Removing Google Play services or play store and using open source stores like Fdroid
- Using open-source alternatives Like the TOR browser, Open camera, Signal etc
- Use costly Paid VPN or other such Software
- Use Dark Net
- Never Save password
As we see, these are steps that cripple how you use your phone daily. For example, without Google services, you cant use Gmaps or Gmail, play store, etc, and cant even sync your account across different devices. Other issues include bad UI, missing functionalities, etc. But for some users, these issues are not a hindrance, to the amount of security they need. If you are a user that requires this amount of privacy, please check how to install custom ROMs, open-source alternatives to popular APPs we use, etc.
3. Simple mode
Now, you may have found many of the above steps too hard, or straight-up impossible, with the way you are currently using your phone. For example, most of us including me cannot just live without the play store, WhatsApp, etc. But that is what this post is about.
The below 10 steps are simple and reduce the number of privacy issues and data sharing drastically. for some of us, that is what we need, not to be tracked across apps and websites, and apps listening to every word we say, waiting for ads and pop-ups. These steps are arranged in the order of easy to hard because some of these steps require just turning off an option, while others are longer.
1: Turn off ads personalization
One of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce targeted advertising, and improve your privacy is very simple, to delete the advertising ID of the device. An advertising id is a unique identifier present in every Android phone, that helps Apps identify a phone across multiple other apps, without signed-in data. This is a privacy feature in reality, as this discourages device fingerprinting and other such methods. But still, many users, such as me will find it creepy when my search results in Chrome end up as ads on Instagram. Turn this setting off, and such data will be reduced drastically.
This will prevent Google from using your data to show you personalized ads across its services and products. You can also reset your advertising ID, which is a unique identifier that Google assigns to your device for advertising purposes, so that you will still get recommendations, but it will only from fresh data.
- go to Settings > Google > Ads and toggle the switch to opt out of ads personalization.
2. Stop sharing Diagnostic Data
If you want to protect your personal information and prevent unwanted tracking, you might want to turn off sharing diagnostic data on your Android phone. This will stop sending anonymous reports about your device usage and performance to Google and other apps. While it is not strictly a privacy issue, Google/Apple/Microsoft sometimes takes too much information in the name of diagnostic data. But even Bad, it is not opt-in, but opt-out in IOS and Android, which makes it a bad feature in our books. so we might as well stop it. Here’s how you can do it:
- Go to Settings > Privacy > Advanced > Google services>Tap on Usage & Diagnostic >Toggle off the switch to stop sharing diagnostic data
3: Use incognito mode
One of the easiest ways to enhance your privacy on your Android phone is to use incognito mode when browsing the web. Incognito mode is a feature that prevents your browser from saving your history, cookies, cache, and other data that can reveal your online behavior. To use incognito mode on Chrome, tap the three dots icon on the top right corner and select the New incognito tab. You can also switch to incognito mode from a regular tab by tapping the tab icon on the bottom right corner and selecting Turn on Incognito.
When you use incognito mode, you’ll see a dark background and a spy icon on the top left corner of your browser. This means that your activity is not being recorded by Chrome. However, keep in mind that incognito mode does not make you invisible online. Your internet service provider, network administrator, or websites you visit can still see your IP address and other information that can identify you. To hide your IP address and encrypt your traffic, you’ll need to use a VPN (a virtual private network), which I’ll explain later. To know more about the incognito mode visit our post What is Incognito Mode [ and 2 better alternatives]
4: Use a VPN
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a service that encrypts and routes your internet traffic through a secure server in another location. This way, you can hide your IP address and location from anyone who is monitoring your online activity. A VPN also allows you to access geo-restricted content, such as websites, apps, or streaming services that are not available in your country. Using a VPN on your Android phone can protect your privacy and security in many ways. For example, a VPN can prevent your ISP (Internet Service Provider) from tracking and throttling your bandwidth based on what you do online.
A VPN can also protect you from hackers and cybercriminals who may try to intercept your data when you use public Wi-Fi networks, such as at airports, hotels, or cafes. To use a VPN on your Android phone, you need to download and install a VPN app from the Google Play Store or the official website of the VPN provider. There are many VPN apps available for Android, but not all of them are reliable or trustworthy. Some VPN apps may leak your data, sell your information, or contain malware. Therefore, you should do some research and choose a reputable VPN provider that offers good features, performance, and customer support. To know more about VPNs visit our site here.
5: Turn off web/YouTube/location history
Another way to improve your privacy on your Android phone is to turn off the web/YouTube/location history in your Google accounts. These are features that allow Google to store and analyze your online activities across different services and devices. For example, web history records the websites you visit and the searches you make on Google. YouTube history records the videos you watch and the channels you subscribe to on YouTube. Location history records the places you go and the routes you take on Google Maps.
While these features can provide you with personalized recommendations and suggestions based on your interests and preferences, they can also compromise your privacy by creating a detailed profile of who you are and what you do online. To turn off these features, go to Settings > Google > Google Account > Data & Personalization. Under Activity controls, you’ll see options for Web & App Activity, YouTube History, and Location History. Tap each option and toggle off the switch to pause them. You can also delete your existing history by tapping Manage activity and selecting Delete activity.
6 Update to the latest software
The last step for ultimate privacy and security on your Android phone is to update to the latest software available for your device. Software updates are important because they often contain bug fixes, security patches, and new features that can improve the performance and functionality of your phone. Software updates can also fix any vulnerabilities or loopholes that hackers or malware may exploit to access your phone or data.
To update to the latest software on your Android phone, go to Settings > System > Advanced > System update. Then, tap on Check for update and follow the instructions on the screen. You may need to connect your phone to a Wi-Fi network and a power source before.
7: Turn off the Location-based services
One of the most common ways that apps and websites can track your location is by using your phone’s GPS or Wi-Fi signals. This can reveal your approximate location, such as your city or neighborhood, or even your exact coordinates. While this can be useful for some purposes, such as navigation or weather, it can also compromise your privacy and expose you to targeted ads, spam, or malicious attacks.
To turn off location on your Android phone, go to Settings > Location and toggle the switch to off. You can also choose which apps can access your location and under what circumstances. For example, you can allow Google Maps to use your location only while using the app, but deny it for other apps that do not need it.
8: Remove permissions from bloatware
Bloatware is a term that refers to pre-installed apps that come with your phone that you don’t use or need. These apps can take up space, slow down your phone, drain your battery, and worse, access your personal data without your knowledge or consent. For example, some bloatware apps can access your contacts, messages, camera, microphone, location, and more.
To remove permissions from bloatware, go to Settings > Apps & notifications > See all apps. Here you’ll see a list of all the apps installed on your phone. Tap each app that you don’t use or trust and select Permissions. You’ll see a list of permissions that the app has requested or granted. Uncheck or deny any permission that you don’t want the app to have. You can also disable or uninstall the app entirely if possible. Many OEMs don’t allow us to delete their bloatware, use the Guide on Universal android debloater to remove all the unwanted apps.
9: Try to use more open-source apps
One of the best ways to ensure your privacy on your Android phone is to use apps that respect your data and do not collect or share it without your consent. These apps are usually open source, which means that their code is publicly available and anyone can inspect or modify it. Open-source apps are more transparent and trustworthy than closed-source apps, which are proprietary and often hide their data practices or have hidden backdoors.
To find open-source apps for your Android phone, you can use alternative app stores such as F-Droid, Droidify, or Aurora Store, which only host open-source apps or apps that do not require Google services. You can also check the privacy policies and permissions of the apps that you download from any source and uninstall or disable any apps that you do not trust or use.
|Popular Android app||Open source alternative|
|Frost for Facebook|
|Google Photos||Simple Gallery Pro|
10: Delete unnecessary Apps, and don’t use unreputed Apps
How Game Apps That Captivate Kids Have Been Collecting Their Data – The New York Times (nytimes.com)
Dozens of Android Apps for Kids on Google Play Store Caught in Ad Fraud Scheme (thehackernews.com)
So, a sensible thing to do is to download only reputed software/ open source apps if they are available and keep a tab on the privacy policies of all the apps you install. This will help you to find out Apps that say they share data with third parties and keep them out of your phone. This last step is more important if you have a child who is using the phone because they are much more likely and much easier to download such cracked apps/unnecessary apps.
Though Android is not known for privacy, and might not be the most privacy friendly out of the box, the unlimited tweaking ability of Android enables us to make our phones 10x better at privacy, with a few simple steps as shown above. If better privacy is not enough, you may even try the other harder methods. Such as removing Google services, or using only open source privacy first apps, which does make it hard to use the mobile phone. But for most users, we recommend the above settings. If you liked this post, please share and comment down below. If you have other suggestions, do tell us them also. Thank you.
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