How to: use your smartphone without leaving a trace

Cover up your digital footprints.

 

By David Nield of Popular Science

Every time you grab your phone to participate in a group chat, watch a YouTube video, or search the internet, you leave a digital trail of activity. This footprint can compromise your privacy the next time a friend borrows your device. It also puts your personal information at risk should your phone fall into really unscrupulous hands.

In this guide, we’ll explain how you can prevent your device from logging and storing data where other people can easily stumble across it. We will focus on cleaning up your phone’s local storage, as opposed to limiting the information that apps send to the cloud.

Go incognito

The web browser on your phone, like the one on your computer, offers a data-limiting incognito or private mode. When you open a session in this mode, the app will forget the pages you visit and the keywords you search as soon as you close the window.

However, private browsing doesn’t make you invisible. For instance, if you log into Facebook’s web portal in incognito mode, the social network will record your activity. Your internet service provider (ISP), will also see your browsing, and it may log your online behavior as well.

To hide your browsing from your ISP, you’ll need to rely on a Virtual Private Network (VPN) (more on that in this roundup of security gadgets and apps). But if you simply aim to clean up the record left on your phone’s local storage, then this mode tidies up after itself very effectively.

The process for using this mode will depend on the browser app you prefer. For example, to launch incognito mode with Chrome, tap the Menu button (three dots) on the top right of the page and choose New incognito tab. If you forget to browse incognito, you can still clear your saved data. Just hit Menu > Settings > Privacy > Clear browsing data.

ForiPhone users who rely on Safari, tap the Show pages icon (two squares) on the bottom right of the screen and choose Private. Now, when you tap the Plus button to open a new window, it will be an incognito one. To erase data collected outside of private mode, open the Settings app and select Safari > Clear History and Website Data.

Erase messages

Unless you use a chat app with self-destructing messages, it will keep records of your conversations. Of course, most people like to check back on their old communications, but you don’t need to preserve every moment of a years-long thread. You can delete these old conversations manually, or try a less time-consuming option: Automatically erase chat history after a set period of time has elapsed.

On iOS, open the Settings app, go to Messages > Keep Messages, and set messages to automatically disappear after 30 days. Within the app itself, you can manually erase conversations from the front screen: Swipe left on the thread and then tap the Delete button.

Unfortunately, not all chat apps offer this auto-expunge function. To leave no trace of conversations on your phone, you may have to turn to manual deletion. This may be time-consuming, but it isn’t difficult. For example, in Android’s default SMS app, Messages, you delete a conversation by long-pressing on it and then tapping the Trash icon on the top right of the screen.

Some apps make it easier to purge your entire history all at once. In the case of WhatsApp, open the app and head to Settings > Chats > Chat history > Delete all chats. Then make a note to regularly check back and re-erase your latest messages.

Another solution is to only send the aforementioned self-destructing messages. Apps with this option include Telegram Messenger, Facebook Messenger, and Snapchat. For more information, check out our guide to self-destructing message apps.

Limit app logging

Each of the apps on your phone will take a slightly different approach to logging your activities. Some of them let you avoid their gaze by using incognito mode, while others will stop tracking you if you ask.

For example, the Android version of YouTube (this is not yet available in the iOS version) just added an incognito mode, which doesn’t track the videos you watch. To activate this mode, open the app, tap your avatar on the top right of the screen, and pick Turn on Incognito.

On the other hand, Google Maps will track your location by default, which lets it accumulate a lot of data about your real-world movements. To stop it, head to the settings: Launch the app, tap the Menu button (three lines) on the top left of the screen, and hit Settings (on Android) or the cog icon (on iOS). Within the settings, select Personal content and turn off the location history feature.

There are millions of apps on the market, with no hard and fast rules about how to keep them from recording your behavior. But in general, a good first step is to check for the aforementioned settings—incognito mode and stopping tracking.

If you don’t find these options, you’ll have to clear your activity manually. This process will vary depending on your operating system.

In Android, open Settings > Apps & notifications, pick an app from the list, and hit Storage > Clear storage. This wipes all the data that the app has stored locally. Afterward, the app will behave as if you’ve installed it from scratch, so you’ll need to log in again, set up your preferences, and so on.

On iOS, you won’t find an identical option, but you can achieve the same effect by uninstalling and reinstalling an app. Open the Settings app, tap General > iPhone Storage, and select one of your apps. Then choose Delete App to wipe all of its data. Finally, re-install the program from the App Store.

It’s not very practical to do this for all of your apps every day. But you might choose to run a manual clean-up at set intervals (say once a month), before you go traveling, or whenever you want to make a fresh start.

Delete search history

Many mobile apps store data locally and in the cloud, so they can sync your information to other devices. That means, to clear search logs from your phone, you’ll have to wipe the records across multiple platforms.

For example, your Google account will store the history of searches you’ve run from your Android phone. To wipe these records, you actually have to access them from the web. Open your browser and head to your Google activity history page. Click the Menu button (three lines) on the top left, then Delete activity by. Set the time span and content type—to erase everything, those should be All time and Search, respectively—and click Delete. This will wipe your search history across all the Google-linked products you use, including Android and the Google search engine.

On iOS, you won’t find a comparable activity cleaner. However, you can prevent Spotlight from betraying your past searches by displaying them as suggestions. To turn off this feature, head to the Settings app, tap Siri & Search, and toggle off the Suggestions in Search switch. Now, when you lend your phone to your mother to look something up, she won’t see all your past search terms.

 

How do you cover your tracks on your smartphone? Share your workflow in the comments below!

Weekly Round Up 6/15/18

 

Um, anything more sophisticated than the Self-Check out lines in Walmart will be hard for the American Public to master, guys.
No more grocery checkout lines: Microsoft may rival Amazon with tech that cuts out the cashier

 

Well, if nothing else is working….
Using tech to stop phone-wielding drivers

 

We don’t hear enough good things about Tech these days….
6 ways tracking tech is changing the world for the better

Whatever happened to just going to camp and being a kid?
NDSU summer tech camp designed to encourage young girls to pursue a career in technology

My favorite story of the week…
Apple closing tech loophole police use to crack iPhones

Please God, No. Make it Stop.
Drone swarms are the new fireworks lighting up China’s skies

 

Trump will never be able to wrap his tiny, barely used brain around this….
The Guy Who Created Oculus Has Now Made Surveillance Tech That Acts As A Virtual Border Wall

Literally what they do best….
Apple Shuns the Tech Industry’s Apology Tour

Tales From the Orchard: Apple Just Made Safari the Good Privacy Browser

 

By Lily Hay Newman of Wired.com

APPLE ANNOUNCED A slew of new software features at its Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, including an augmented reality upgrade and animojis that can stick out their tongues when you do. But the company’s latest desktop and mobile operating systems contain a more subtle, yet more radical, innovation. The newest version of Apple’s Safari browser will push back hard against the ad-tracking methods and device fingerprinting techniques that marketers and data brokers use to monitor web users as they browse. Starting with Facebook.

The next version of Safari will explicitly prompt you when a website tries to access your cookies or other data, and let you decide whether to allow it, a welcome step toward explicit choices about online tracking. Safari will also make a dent in defeating the so-called “fingerprinting” approach, in which marketers use publicly accessible information about devices—like the way they’re configured, the fonts they have installed, and the plug-ins they run—to assign them an individual, trackable ID. In macOS Mojave and iOS 12, Safari will scrub much of this data, exposing only generic configuration information and default fonts. The browser will also stop supporting legacy plugins. The idea is to make your Mac indistinguishable from millions of others, muting the fingerprinting effect.

“Data companies are clever and relentless,” Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, said on Monday, explaining why Apple pushed to add these features. The company calls the set of tools “Intelligent Tracking Prevention 2.0,” and they feature WebKit changes, like eliminating a 24-hour grace period that gave trackers a day of cookie access.

The new version of Safari will also help improve password hygiene by offering to generate, autofill, and store strong passwords. It’s a well-intentioned approach, although one that can be problematic depending on how it’s deployed. The browser will now also audit password reuse to try to discourage people from using the same password for multiple services—a crucial way consumers can reduce their risk of being impacted by data breaches.

The antitracking features continue Apple’s assault on ad tech; last year’s Safari update prevented video and audio from autoplaying, and the then-nascent Intelligent Tracking Prevention Webkit tool worked to identify and block tracking cookies. This year’s updates, though, take things a step further by significantly expanding the tracking techniques Safari can block or warn users about.

Apple’s not the only company to toughen up its browser against privacy and security menaces. As with Chrome’s Do Not Track mechanism, Apple seems to have based some of the new Safari protections on research from Mozilla, which offers its own protections in the Firefox browser. In February, Chrome also started offering native ad-blocking measures to bring more comprehensive protections to users based on standards from the Coalition for Better Ads. There are also browser plugins like Ghostery, Privacy Badger, and Adblock Plus to help stymie various tracking techniques. But Apple’s efforts in Mojave and iOS 12 appear to be the most prominent and comprehensive yet.

Though the new privacy mechanisms will potentially hinder all sorts of tracking, Apple specifically called out Facebook’s massive ad network—which is known for employing an array of user tracking strategies, like its ubiquitous “Like” buttons. In one of the slides depicting an example of how Intelligent Tracking Prevention 2.0 will work, Apple’s Federighi showed a Safari page open to Facebook with a popup notification reading “Do you want to allow ‘facebook.com’ to use cookies and website data while browsing ‘blabbermouth.net’? This will allow ‘facebook.com’ to track your activity.”

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request from WIRED for comment, and the platform is certainly not the only large ad network incorporating these techniques. But it’s a prominent player that has received extensive criticism for letting a variety of user data tracking tools run rampant. The company’s chief information security officer Alex Stamos noted on Twitter that it doesn’t seem like the new Safari will block tracking pixels or Javascript components, which are notorious for being exploitable as trackers or by bad actors for malicious activity.
Stamos seemed more focused on blasting Apple’s attempt to single Facebook out, but it’s true that this generation of Intelligent Tracking Prevention will inevitably have limitations. It’s difficult to fully block online tracking methods without also eroding website usability, and different privacy initiatives have approached dealing with this conflict in different ways.

“The consent popups will be a big deal to people. It’s more visual so you know that they are attempting to track you versus it just happening in the background silently,” says Will Strafach, an iOS security researcher and the president of Sudo Security Group. “I guess the real test will be how well these measures work and how advertisers and trackers will react.”

Google and Firefox already offer plenty of solid ad-blocking and antitracking mechanisms, and offer a host of other features that may make them more desirable than Apple’s browser. But if privacy matters most to you, it might be time to give Safari a try.

What’s your preferred browser or method for protecting your privavy online? Sound off in the comments below!

WIT: Helen Dixon-New Privacy Rules Could Make This Woman One of Tech’s Most Important Regulators

With Europe’s sweeping new data privacy law, Ireland is in the middle of a standoff between regulators and tech companies.

By Adam Satariano of the NYTimes

DUBLIN — If Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t know who Helen Dixon is, he will soon.
From an unassuming townhouse in the Irish capital, Ms. Dixon, the country’s data protection commissioner, leads an agency that was once a bureaucratic backwater. Employees share offices and have few of the perks available in Facebook’s building nearby: The main free amenities here are water, coffee and tea.

Yet Ms. Dixon will soon gain vast new authority to investigate and fine Facebook, as well as an array of other technology giants with regional headquarters in Ireland. Amid increased concerns over online privacy, a sweeping new European privacy law could make her one of the world’s most consequential regulators.
She is eager to test her newfound power. But the question remains whether her tiny agency is able — or willing — to stand up to tech behemoths of Silicon Valley.

“There’s a wave coming toward us that we need to push back against,” Ms. Dixon, who spent the first 10 years of her career working for tech companies, said in an interview.

Europe’s new General Data Protection Regulation is seen by experts as the world’s most aggressive set of internet privacy rules. It is expected to come into force on May 25, and it will give more than 500 million people living in the European Union the right to keep companies from collecting personal data, or to have it deleted. Regulators like Ms. Dixon will be able to fine companies up to 4 percent of global revenue — equivalent to about $1.6 billion for Facebook.

The privacy law highlights broader skepticism of Silicon Valley in Europe, where regulators have punished companies for violating tax and antitrust laws, not doing enough to stop the spread of hate speech and misinformation online, and intrusively gobbling up data on consumers.

Ireland in particular is taking center stage in the wide-ranging battle. The country is the European headquarters for data-hungry companies including Airbnb, Apple, Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft, which owns LinkedIn.

If companies do not comply with the law, Ms. Dixon said, “they will suffer consequences.”

But for all the tough talk, the reality is that her agency subsists on an annual budget of 7.5 million euros, equivalent to $9 million. That’s roughly as much revenue as the companies she oversees generate over all in 10 minutes. Facebook, which also owns WhatsApp and Instagram, has hundreds of people globally working on data protection regulation alone, including lawyers and privacy experts hired in Dublin.

The data protection office was once an afterthought. During an effort by the Irish government to move less-critical agencies out of Dublin, it was relocated in 2006 50 miles west to a town called Portarlington, population 8,368. Its power was so limited that it could not publicize investigations.

Ms. Dixon, whose father was an army officer and mother a schoolteacher, grew up in a small town in central Ireland before moving to Dublin for university. She worked for companies including the business software firm Citrix Systems before moving into government. She later received a postgraduate diploma in computer science.
Fittingly for her current position, Ms. Dixon guards her privacy. She will not share her age, other than saying she is in her “40s,” and she has become more careful with data since taking the job. She does not use Facebook or Instagram (though she does have a LinkedIn profile).

Since taking over in 2014, Ms. Dixon has successfully lobbied for more funding and got the headquarters put back in Dublin. A move to a bigger office is in the works. She has hired lawyers, investigators and engineers. The staff will total 140 this year, up from 30 when she joined, with plans to reach 200 in the next few years, if budget increases are approved.

But if data privacy is truly a priority globally, Ms. Dixon said, more resources are needed. Her office is actually among the better funded privacy agencies globally, but is still a minnow compared with, say, Ireland’s financial services regulator, which has a budget about 40 times greater.

“The question for governments is, how much enforcement do we want to do, how seriously do we want to take the risk to our fundamental rights and freedoms in this area?” said Ms. Dixon, carrying a bound copy of the new law. “We need the funding and resources commensurate with the level of importance. This office would suggest it should be far more highly resourced.”

Budgetary constraints are not new to regulators overseeing powerful industries. But privacy groups worry that without strong oversight, the European rules, years in the making, will do little to crimp the power of Silicon Valley.

There is evidence those concerns are well founded. In a Reuters survey of privacy regulators in 24 European Union countries, 17 said they did not have the needed funding or legal powers to enforce data protection regulation. Ireland did not participate in the survey.

Ms. Dixon must also contend with skepticism among privacy advocates, stemming largely from Ireland’s history of lax oversight of the technology industry.

Her predecessors are faulted for not taking earlier action against Facebook, even when complaints were filed years ago about data-mining practices similar to those eventually used by the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. The European Commission in 2016 also ordered Ireland to recoup about $15.6 billion in unpaid taxes from Apple. (The decision is being appealed.)

“The culture has to be changed,” said Max Schrems, a Austria-based lawyer and online privacy advocate who filed the earlier complaints against Facebook. “You can have the best law, but if nobody enforces it, then you’re not going to go anywhere.”

Advocates of the new law say it is already having a positive impact and that oversight is spread out. A new European Data Protection Board will help coordinate investigations and pool resources across European Union countries, giving regulators outside Ireland the ability to bring action. The data protection regulation also allows private groups to recruit consumers into class-action-style complaints — not as common in Europe as the United States — that could result in sizable damages against businesses.

A looming question, however, is how much people really care. Ms. Dixon cited Facebook’s most recent financial report, which showed growing user numbers, revenue and profit, despite the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

“We should be acting as data protection authorities in the name of data subjects, but you often as a regulator in this space have the feeling that you’re not mandated by the general public,” she said. “Either they don’t care or they actively oppose what we’re doing.”

Representatives from the technology industry have made regular visits to the converted 18th-century Georgian home used by Ms. Dixon’s team. Aware that a public backlash is putting pressure on regulators to rein in Silicon Valley, Facebook and others have been courting Ms. Dixon, putting forward their case that their data protection policies comply with the new European law.

“We’ve really leapt into explaining what we’ve done and the thinking that’s gone into that,” said Stephen Deadman, Facebook’s global deputy chief privacy officer. “I’ve got faith and confidence that the way Helen Dixon’s office will perform its function will be true to the spirit and requirements of G.D.P.R., rather than being blown around by whatever is happening in the media.”

Google and Twitter declined to comment.

Even with limited resources, Ms. Dixon is studying her adversaries.

When Mr. Zuckerberg testified before Congress last month, she stayed up late at home despite the time difference to watch as the Facebook chief executive answered questions.

Asked if she had a message for him and other tech executives, she said they should expect her to use her new powers “to the fullest.”

Weekly Round Up 3/30/18

 

 

Facebook can’t have all the fun…
It’s Amazon’s Turn in the Tech Hot Seat

It should be for any business that handles people’s data.
Backlash against tech companies is a wake-up call

Edward Snowden said it best, “Voluntary surveillance.”
Why do people hand over so much data to tech companies? It’s not easy to say ‘no’

As I was a watching a clip of this, I got the feeling Uncle Timmy might be running for office one day soon…
Recode Daily: Tim Cook talks Facebook, data privacy, domestic manufacturing and tech in education

This is super creepy and cool all at the same time.
A Prediction About Future Tech From The 1990s Has Gone Viral Because It’s Spookily Accurate

 

They never seem to get any better…
Women and Minorities tech; By the Numbers.

 

I don’t need Alexa cooking any meals for me, thanks.
To Invade Homes, Tech is Trying to Get Your Kitchen

I’m telling you, that tech episode of the X-Files scared the crap out of a lot of people.
How Tech Can Make Retirement Harder For Couples

How to: Password Protect a Folder in a Mac

 

 

 

By Henry T. Casey of Laptop Mag.com

Not all of your files are meant to be seen by everyone. Your friends and family may not appreciate this truth, but that’s just the way it is sometimes. Luckily, MacBook owners can protect their sensitive files from prying eyes by password protecting specific folders.

Many paid programs offer similar functionality, but we prefer this free method built into Apple that allows folders to be turned into protected disk images. We tested this on a MacBook Pro running macOS Sierra version 10.12.6 but research shows it works the same way going as far back as Mac OS X 10.6, Snow Leopard.

1. Click Command + Shift + A to open the Applications folder.

 

2. Open the Utilities folder within Applications.

 

3. Open Disk Utility.

4. Click File.

 

5. Select New Image.

6. Select Image from Folder.

7. Select the folder you wish to protect and click Open.

8. Click on the Image Format option menu and select read/write.

9. Click on the Encryption menu and click 128-bit AES encryption.

10. Enter the password for this folder twice, and click Choose.

11. Name the locked disk image and click Save.

12. Click Done.

You’ve turned your folder into a locked disk image! You can delete the original folder now, if you’d like. Just don’t delete that .DMG file!

And just like a folder, you can add items to your password-protected disk image before ejecting it.

 

Do you have any tips for protecting your data? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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