There’s a catchy saying going around with a valuable lesson on our personal technology: Satan is in retardation.
This proverb refers to the default settings that technology companies embed deeply into the devices, apps, and websites we use. These settings usually cause us to share data about our activities and our location. We can usually opt out of this data collection, but companies make it difficult to notice menus and buttons, probably hoping we won’t modify them right away.
Apple, Google, Amazon, Meta, and Microsoft in general want us to leave some default settings turned on, allegedly to train their algorithms and detect errors, making their products easier for us to use. But sharing unnecessary data is not always in our best interest.
So with every tech product we use, it’s important to spend some time looking at the many menus, buttons, and switches to reduce the data we share. Here’s a simplified guide to many of the default settings that I and other tech writers always change.
With iPhones, users can open the Settings app and enter the Privacy menu to change How do they share data? About using the app and website. (Apple technically requires people to opt into some of these settings when they activate a new iPhone, but these steps can easily be missed. These tips will disable data sharing.)
Select Tracking and turn off Allow apps to request tracing. This tells all apps not to share data with third parties for marketing purposes.
Select Apple Ads and turn off personalized ads so that Apple can’t use information about you to display targeted ads on the App Store, Apple News, and Stocks.
Select Analytics and Optimizations and turn off Share iPhone Analytics to prevent your iPhone from sending device data to Apple to improve its products.
Select Location Services, tap System Services and turn off iPhone Analytics, Routing and Traffic to prevent the device from sharing geographic data with Apple to improve Apple Maps.
Google products, including Android phones and web services such as Google Search, YouTube, and Google Maps, are linked to Google accounts, and the control panel for modifying data management is on the website myactivity.google.com.
For all three categories – Web & App Activity, Location History, and YouTube History – set Auto-delete to delete activity older than three months. This way, instead of creating a permanent history of each search, Google scans entries that are more than 90 days old. In the near term, it can still provide useful recommendations based on recent searches.
Additional advice for Android phones comes from Ryne Hager, tech blog editorAndroid PoliceNewer versions of Android give people the ability to share an approximate location rather than their exact location with apps. For many apps, such as weather software, sharing approximate data should be the way to go, and exact geographic data should only be shared with software that you need to work Correctly, such as mapping applications.
The most important Meta settings can be accessed through a file Privacy Checker Inside the settings menu. Here are some important tweaks to prevent snooping by employers and marketers:
For “Who can see what you share,” select “Only Me” for people who have access to your friends list and Pages you follow, and select “Friends” for who can see your birthday.
For “How can people find you on Facebook,” choose “Only Me” for people who can search for you via email or phone number.
For Your Facebook Ad Preferences, turn off the Relationship Status, Employer, Job Title, and Education toggles. This way, marketers cannot display targeted ads based on this information.
Amazon website and devices
Amazon provides some control over how information is shared through its website and products such as Alexa and Nest cameras. There are two settings that I highly recommend turning off:
Amazon launched last year Amazon Sidewalk, a program that makes newer Amazon products automatically share Internet connections with other nearby devices. Critics say Sidewalk could open doors for bad actors to gain access to people’s data.
To disable it for the Echo speaker, open the Amazon Alexa app and tap More in the lower right side of the screen. Inside Settings, tap Account Settings, choose Amazon Sidewalk and toggle Sidewalk to Off.
For the Ring camera, in the Ring app, tap the three-line icon in the top right and then tap Control Center. Press Amazon Sidewalk, and move the button to the off position.
On Amazon’s website, some shopping lists – such as items saved to your wishlist – are shared with the public by default, which may reveal information. visit your lists page and set each shopping list to privacy.
Windows PCs come with a range of data sharing settings turned on by default to help Microsoft, advertisers, and websites learn more about us. Toggles for these settings can be found by opening the Settings menu, clicking on Privacy and Security, and then General.
However, the worst default setting on Windows may have nothing to do with privacy. When Wirecutter Editor Kimber Streams tests new laptops, one of his first steps is to open the sound menu and select No Sounds to mute the many annoying beats that play whenever something goes wrong in Windows.
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