Does your smartphone know too much?

At the turn of the century, the very idea of a smartphone would have seemed like science fiction – although we had basic camera phones and video calling by then, not many of us really expected that the tech would explode so rapidly that we’d all be carrying small, powerful computers around with us every day.

And no one would have predicted how much we’d come to rely on them. We use our smartphones for pretty much everything now – banking, taking photos, monitoring fitness levels, keeping up with the news, posting to social media, and – sometimes – making phone calls.

But do our smartphones know too much personal information? And are we doing enough to protect all that sensitive data?

How much does your smatphone know about you?

According to Statista, 70% of internet users worldwide have been using their smartphones more as a direct result of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The significantly increased screen time raises not only health concerns like neck or eye problems, but also security and privacy issues. 

“Today, we use smartphones for everything we would do on our computers — video chat, shop online, transfer money, send pictures, sign documents, and many more,” explains Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN. “However, many mobile users are still unaware of how risky some of the activities are, as our smart handsets lack strong protection against cybercrime.”

The expert points out 7 crucial things your smartphone knows about you. But don’t panic just yet — scroll down for simple precautionary measures you can take to protect your device and the information it holds.

What does your smartphone know about you?

  • Location at a given point. Various apps like maps require access to the location services on your smartphone, so it tracks your location all the time. 
  • Your passwords. Almost all apps on a smartphone need registration, not to mention the various online shops and services we often log in to from our handsets.
  • Your billing information, address, and contact info when you shop on your smartphone.
  • What you talk about. Virtual assistants, such as Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google Assistant, might be recording your private matters and even storing this information.
  • Your movements. Your smartphone is equipped with an accelerometer and gyroscope, which measure your physical movement, orientation, and angular rotation to give health and sports apps a very accurate picture of your movements, such as sitting, standing, walking, bending, etc.
  • Your unique physical biometrics. Your smartphone recognizes your face and your fingerprint for identification and access control.
  • All the important info you give Google. The tech giant is using your searches and browsing history on its owned websites (like YouTube) to learn about your demographics and personal interests for advertising purposes.
  • Photo metadata. A photo you send to someone or upload online from your phone reveals your phone’s specific model as well as the precise location and time the photo was taken.

How should you protect your smartphone?

Even though you may feel vulnerable with your smartphone knowing almost everything about you, there are some simple steps you can take to keep your data secure in case the device gets hacked or lost.

First of all, there’s a lot you can do manually. Apps always ask for permission to access your contacts, camera, microphone, or location, although some of them could do their job without it. Don’t approve these requests without questioning them, and you’ll be more likely to keep trackers from sniffing your private information.

Always turn off the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on your device when you’re not using them to stop the phone from looking for potential connections. “A lot of smartphone users who connect to public Wi-Fi don’t know that their sensitive data can be intercepted and stolen,” says Daniel Markuson. “A good way to protect yourself from the risks of public networks is to use a VPN, which encrypts your online traffic and hides it from anyone trying to intercept it.”

Additionally, enable two-factor authentication for your online accounts and apps on your smartphone whenever possible. Download a password manager to generate unique passwords for different registrations and safely store them in an encrypted vault. 

Regarding the info your photos on your smartphone hold, you can disable geotagging in the privacy settings. And the best way to protect your private snaps from hackers and stalkers is to store them in an encrypted cloud, such as NordLocker. In case of an accident, no outsider will be able to access your photos, and you could easily get them back.

15 signs that your smartphone has been hacked

How to make a conference call without a smartphone

Using ConferenceCall.co.uk means you can set up a conference call with up to 100 participants anywhere in the world, with nothing more than a landline. You can do this in just three simple steps:

  • Enter your e-mail address and request your pin code. You will receive this by e-mail.
  • Send all participants an invitation with the pin code, date/time and dial-in number(s).
  • All participants call the dial-in number and enter your pin code after the welcome message.

And remember, all UK conference calls are completely FREE of charge.

ABOUT NORDVPNNordVPN is the world’s most advanced VPN service provider used by over 14 million internet users worldwide. NordVPN provides double VPN encryption, malware blocking, and Onion Over VPN. The product is very user-friendly, offers one of the best prices on the market, has over 5,000 servers in 60 countries worldwide, and is P2P-friendly. One of the key features of NordVPN is the zero-log policy. For more information: nordvpn.com.

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