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New WhatsApp Messenger Policy: How to control and protect your privacy on your device

If you are concerned and want to control and protect your privacy on your smartphone, here are a few settings you should update.

January 10, 2021 / 05:13 PM IST

The debate regarding digital privacy has been going around for several years now. However, many smartphone users have started paying attention to this topic now after the recent change in WhatsApp policy to share user data with Facebook. If you are concerned and want to control and protect your privacy on your smartphone, here are a few settings you should update.

Manage App Permissions: Have you ever paid any attention to the permissions that an app requires on your phone? The chances are that you would have just installed the app, agreed to everything and started using the app – this would give apps open access to all the information on your device. Thankfully, you can change this to ensure that your privacy is protected with any app that you install on your smartphone.

Open Settings on your smartphone and head to the Privacy section to access the Permission Manager. Once you open the Permission Manager, it will show you a list of device features such as camera, call logs, location, microphone, storage, etc. You can open each section to view the list of apps accessing that particular feature and then change settings to deny any app that you don’t want to access a specific feature. We strongly recommend giving permissions to only essential apps and removing the other ones.

Example: If you use Telegram for communication, you need to provide permission for contacts, but you can deny access to your call logs. Going ahead, make sure that you read through the permissions requirement of any app that you install and give access permission to protect your privacy.

Do not use easy account sign-ups: Almost all apps and services require you to create an account to use them now. However, what most of us tend to do is that instead of going through the option to create an account, we choose to sign up using Google, Facebook or Twitter. You don’t realise that when you choose that option, you are providing access to all the information in your Google, Facebook or Twitter account to these third-party apps and services.

This is a significant privacy risk as the apps can use your personal information and your usage history to track you regularly. Instead of choosing the easy method of signing up with an existing service, take a few minutes and always sign up with your email manually. You can revoke the account access for third-party apps and services for the apps and services that you have already signed up for via Google or Facebook.

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Head to your Google account settings and open the Security section to view and edit third-party apps with account access. For Facebook, open your account settings and then go to the Apps and Websites section to view and edit the list of apps that have been logged in via Facebook.

Turn Off Ad Personalisation: When you browse the internet, check your email or access your social media network, you always come across advertisements in one form or the other. It’s not by chance that these ads are always relevant to your interests or your recent searches. This happens because, by default, Google and Facebook have ad personalisation turned on for your account, which means that by tracking your usage and using your personal information, relevant ads are shown to you that match your interests. To prevent this from happening, you need to change your privacy settings.

For Google, open your account settings and go to Data & Personalization. You will see the Ad Personalization option in this section, open Ad Settings and then you can turn off this feature. This would stop Google from using your information across Chrome, YouTube and all other Google services. To do the same for Facebook, open settings > Ads and go to Ad Settings > Data about your activity from partners and then turn off the option for Facebook and Instagram account under “Choose where we can use data from our partners to show you personalized ads.”

Location History Control: Did you know, Google keeps track of your location history all the time. Google uses this information to provide personalised suggestions and recommendations depending on your history. However, this also means that your location is continuously being tracked, and your past and current location activity can be viewed through your account.

You can view your location history by opening the Google Maps app on your phone and going to your profile > Your Timeline. On the page that opens, you will be able to view your location from any day in the past. To stop your location tracking, tap on the three dots on the top right and open settings. In settings, tap on Location history settings, and then you can turn it off for your Google account.
Karan Bajaj is a senior tech journalist based in Delhi
first published: Jan 10, 2021 05:13 pm

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