How to Secure Privacy on Mobile Devices
Mobile devices and their technologies have revolutionized communication. However, these devices have also created unprecedented privacy concerns when it comes to personal information. Access to any personal information poses risk for impersonation by another individual in order to take money from bank accounts, make credit card charges, open new accounts, receive medical treatment, and commit other forms of fraud. Identity thieves purposely violate the privacy of others and use personal information for financial gain, legal troubles, and more.
Sadly, victims of identity theft can spend years repairing damage to their credit rating, legal reputation, and economic situation at great additional financial and emotional cost. Even if you never become a victim of identity theft, any access to your personal data is damaging and an invasion of privacy. Therefore, it’s essential to understand how to secure your privacy on mobile devices.
How Is Privacy at Risk on Mobile Devices?
Your privacy is at risk through any attempts to collect personally identifiable information (PII). This is defined by gsa.gov to include any information “that can be used to distinguish or trace an individual’s identity, either alone or when combined with other personal or identifying information that is linked or linkable to a specific individual.”
Essentially, PII refers to specific or full pieces of identifiable data such as your name, telephone number, etc. However, it also includes peripheral data such as social media pictures, reported income, or even purchases that can be linked to your online accounts.
Examples of PII include:
- Full, legal name
- Social security number
- Phone number
- Driver’s license number
- Email address
- Account numbers
- Passwords and/or personal identification numbers (PINs)
- Social media information
- Online transactions
Access to any PII data can result in risk of identity theft and other significant consequences through tracking your web presence and footprint. Any personal information that is present online can be accessed through your mobile devices. Therefore, securing privacy on these devices is essential for your protection.
How to Secure Privacy on Mobile Devices
There are many steps and actions you can take to secure privacy on your mobile devices. This includes your phone, tablet, laptop, etc. Most of these security provisions can be done through the settings on your device. However, it does take time and effort to make such changes. Here are some initial steps to take as a means of protecting your personal information and privacy through your mobile devices:
- Protect device with PIN or password: One of the easiest ways to secure your mobile device is to protect it with a PIN or password. This means that when your device is “locked,” a numeric identification number or alphanumeric password must be entered to unlock the device for use. The more secure your device protection, the less likely someone will gain access to your device and PII. Therefore, it’s important to create complex PINs or passwords to protect your device, and they should never be shared with anyone.
- Ensure device’s software is routinely updated: Keeping the software updated on your mobile device is essential for your privacy protection. Software updates frequently include “patches” for security holes to prevent privacy breaches. In addition, these updates often remove outdated software features to improve the stability of use.
- Be vigilant with apps: Many mobile device users don’t realize how much of their PII is associated with mobile apps. Therefore, it’s best to remove any unnecessary apps from your devices. This includes uninstalling unnecessary default apps that come with your device.
In addition to removing apps that aren’t needed, you can protect your privacy in other ways with the apps that you use. You can limit the amount of data sent to the cloud by preventing your apps from syncing. Be vigilant about checking what permissions your apps require and do not use those that request access to sensitive information.
- Don’t share your location: Sharing your whereabouts with a device browser or apps puts your personal information at risk. Therefore, its essential that you don’t voluntarily or involuntarily share your location. You can prevent individual apps from accessing your location through apps permissions. For search engines such as Google, you can reset your location history on your device and stop location tracking.
- Disable ad profiling and tracking: It’s now possible to disable or limit ad profiling and tracking on most mobile devices. This protection prevents companies from tracking your online behavior and footprint through your mobile device, as well as opening up more risk for your PII to be compromised. In addition, it limits targeted ads which can put you at risk for unwelcome influence by corporations and other entities.
Some people may wonder why the default settings of mobile devices are not in the best interest of protecting the user’s privacy. This is due to the influence of data collection through the internet, also known as web mining. As of now, there is no regulation when it comes to the type or amount of personal information being collected online. One use of such data is to create advertising targeted to internet users as a means of influencing their choices as consumers and citizens.
Sadly, the process of data mining is often done without consent of the user or ethics on the part of the collectors. Overall, this data collection puts the safety, security, and privacy of individuals and groups at risk for stolen personal information and identity theft. This process generates information and tracks patterns of mobile device users who may not realize that their privacy is being compromised or that their PII is accessible.
Unfortunately, there is no failsafe way of protecting your personal information and privacy with the use of mobile devices. In addition, securing your privacy on devices can take time and effort. However, limiting access to your PII can greatly reduce the chances that your privacy will be compromised. In addition, by securing privacy as much as possible on your mobile devices, you reduce the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft or other devastating fraud.