Jealous boyfriend spying his girlfriend looks at her phone while she looks at him upset (Credit: AntonioGuillem, iStock)
Your life is on your phone. It has a record of everyone you talk to or message. It is your browsing history, your emails, your banking app and your photos. At a given moment, you have only one password away from spilling all of your private information.
Everyone’s situation is different. You have a nosy roommate. Maybe your husband is paranoid. Maybe your child is feeling rebellious. It is uncomfortable to imagine, but people do strange things when they’re not being viewed, even the people we know and trust. Even if this never happens, you might just want to give yourself some rest.
A few simple steps can help you to lock the phone. These tips are useful for the prevention of espionage at home, but they will also help to strangers’ eyes off of your personal information while in public or traveling.
1. How to track your phone
Your roommate, partner or friend who is visiting can’t snoop on your phone if there is no possibility to do it. Keep your phone on your person. Get in the habit of carrying it with you or keep it in your pocket or bag.
But really, anyone do not need in your phone. There are apps that use GPS track phone location, gives you a full log of all calls sent and received and even sms messages and web activity. This information is available online after you create an account. Curious? Click here for a free app that will let you follow a phone location, messages, website activity, and more.
But even if you are vigilant, you are still likely to leave your phone lying on a counter or a bank, where everyone can find it. You are so wise to snoop-proof your device. Keep reading, and you will be the wiser.
2. Put it on lockdown
Your most basic line of defense against prying eyes is to simply lock your phone. You can choose to a password, a fingerprint, a pattern, or Face ID (if you have an iPhone X). Fingerprints and face scans are a particularly good idea, since they can not be overcome just by guessing at them.
Check your settings to see how long your phone is unlocked before you reset the password. You want to shorten this time to a matter of minutes to avoid leaving your phone vulnerable if you happen to walk away and let it sit. It can be a bit tricky to unlock the phone all the time, but it will help to protect from casual snoopers.
If you use a passcode, make sure that it is something that is not easy to guess. Do not use your date of birth or place of residence. Even better, use a longer sequence of numbers.
Both Android and iOS you can use passwords with more than four digits. You’re not stuck forever with the same password, thus changing it from time to time and ensure your privacy with some fresh songs.
Curious to find out what method for the lock of the phone is the most secure? Click here for a quick read on the different ways and risks.
3. Hide notifications from the lock screen
So you have your phone protected, but reports can still pop up on the lock screen. This can be innocent memories and Instagram updates, but what flirty texts? Sensitive work emails? Anyone else looking at your display to see these messages judging on your activity.
Fortunately, you can use the notifications on the lock screen, private, and safe for anyone who is looking over your shoulder:
For Android, go to settings and open settings for notifications. Click on the gear icon and touch “On the lock screen.” This gives you the ability to not show notices all notices or hide only sensitive notifications. This last option will hide the content of e-mail or messages. This choice is a good compromise between privacy and knowledge.
For your iPhone, go to settings and go to your notifications. Click on “preview” and you can choose to show them always, only when the phone is locked, or never. The best compromise here is to only show notifications when you have unlocked your phone. You can also indicate what the individual apps from showing notifications on your lock screen by heading to the notification settings, choose the app, and customize the settings for alerts.
Related: Ever wonder if someone has blocked your number? Click here for some warning signs.
4. Turn off the sound
Mobile phones can be noisy devices. That typing sound, when you see the digital keyboard, would be useful. So are the ringtone and notification pings. You’ve probably heard of the people in the street or in the supermarket, playing music without earphones, or holding an audible conversation on the speaker.
All these sounds are designed to catch your attention, but they catch others attention. Strangers know when you receive a call or text. They can hear and the video you’re watching on YouTube. They recognize the bleeps and dings of Snapchat and Facebook Messenger. This may not qualify as “sensitive data”, but they invite others to take an interest in your smartphone activity.
In public, I strongly recommend you to use earbuds for music and videos, and avoid using a speakerphone, except in private places, such as at home or in the car. Most people keep their ringers on low volume, and many people turn off notification sounds at all, rather a small vibration.
Related: I love digital tech life hacks. Click here for six, I bet you’ll be pleased to know.
5. Share your phone (within limits)
If a friend or family member wants to borrow your phone, there is a quick way to get a loan without a exposure of your device.
For Android, open the security settings, select “Screen pinning,” and save it. Now, let’s say your roommate wants your phone to look up the answer to a trivia question. You open Chrome, tap the square button on the bottom right of the screen and locate the small blue pin on the Chrome window. Touch the pin-code to enable screen lock. Now your roommate can use Chrome, but not in other apps until you unlock the phone with your password.
The iPhone version of this function is the so-called Guided Access. Go to the general settings, select accessibility, and then select “Guided Access”. Turn it on and set a password. You can also choose to have a sound and notification for when the guided access timer is running. To try it out, open Safari, click three times on the home button and choose “guided access”. You can set a time limit if you want. Click on “start” and it will lock your iPhone in the Safari app. When done, click three times on the home button and enter your passcode to the release of the app.
You have a right to privacy on your smartphone, but it is up to you to take steps to prevent busybodies from your digital life.
What questions do you have? Call my radio show and click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet or computer. Of the buy of an opinion to the digital world problems, click here for my free podcasts.
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Learn about the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and provides advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.