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Privacy guide for Android

Unfortunately, Android owners unwillingly reveal a lot to Google as they track considerable amounts of private information from their Android devices. The safest way to avoid this is by signing out of your Google account. But that way, you’re disconnected from the Play Store and other Google features. Not a very practical move. Still, there are some things you can do.

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Google's revenue from ads

Most of the Google services we use are free-of-charge. This is mainly because Google generates revenue from the advertisements. It makes use of cookies to track your browsing pattern and shows ads that are relevant to you.

Although it seems to be a difficult task to avoid the tracking cookies, you can learn what information Google has about you by visiting the ad settings page. Here, you can modify the details in a way that you are no longer a part of cookies-based ads.

Google search

Google saves searches

Google has become successful thanks to their search engine. When you search for something and then visit a webpage among the results, Google saves that link along with the information about its content. On Android devices, the searches you make are also tracked by Google. If you were on PC, you could simply use another engine, like DuckDuckGo. With mobile, this issue is a bit more difficult. However, you should be able to stop the tracking feature by adjusting your phone settings accordingly.

Gmail

Gmail scans images

Gmail is a mail service, and all the emails or attachments you send using it are saved on the servers. However, Google also searches all the emails sent by you in order to display relevant advertisements. And it has admitted to scanning images as well. The only way to avoid this is to stop using Gmail and switch to another email service provider.

Contacts

Google stores contacts

As you might have observed, when you switch from one Android device to another, all your contacts get synced to the new device automatically the moment you log in using your Gmail account. This happens because Google stores all of your contacts.

Usually, your contacts contain the names, phone numbers, and addresses of your friends and family. This actually makes the information sensitive and confidential. We advise that you save all the contact information on your device or SIM card rather than in your Google account.

Calendar

Google saves calendar events

The calendar app is similar to contacts, as all user information gets synced with Google’s servers. If you wish to hide your calendar events, you would have to stop using Google’s app. With other applications, you should also be able to move your calendar information to another device.

Drive

Google Drive has third-party access

Although there is not much clarity about whether Google scorches through your files or not, it is evident that all the information you save in your Drive account can be accessed by the company at any point in time. Plus, there are third-party apps that can potentially access your data. If you wish to safeguard your files, there is no other way but to delete all content from your Drive account. However, please note that Google would be able to retrieve the data easily, as nothing gets deleted from its servers immediately.

Google+

Google+ privacy issues

Google+ is a networking website and has its own set of social media privacy issues. Hence, it is recommended that you go through all the settings and modify them accordingly. Be sure to turn off the feature that backs up all photos present on your Android device. You can do this by toggling off the Auto Backup.

At any point in time, should you wish to back out of Google+, you may do so by deleting your Google+ profile by selecting the appropriate option in the settings.

Voice searches

OK Google saves voice searches

Although you can be impressed by the OK Google command, it actually records and stores all your voice searches automatically. You can visit your Google account to verify this, and all of your past searches would be available.

Location

Google tracks location

In short, Google has all your movements tracked right from the moment you started using a smartphone. If you think this is a great security feature, you may continue providing your location. If not, you can disable the feature, and Google will stop tracking your Android device. However, Google Now might change this setting back − make sure you do not allow location tracking if you want to be discrete.

Google Play

Google Play privacy

All the searches you make and the apps you install from the Play Store are saved by Google. This is mentioned in the user agreement, and you cannot stop the company from storing this information unless you wish to stop using the Play Store entirely. Still, here are some steps if you want to contain this problem as much as you can.

Apps

Not all apps can be removed, and you would have to delete each one individually from the Play Store. Navigate to My Apps, select All and then uninstall each app manually.

Books

The list of novels and books you have purchased with your Google account is saved in the Library. You would have to click on the three dots visible at the bottom to download the e-books and then delete them from your account. However, some of the books might be protected with DRM, and you would not be able to access them anywhere else without signing in to your account.

Music

You can delete the music data by navigating to Play Music settings and clicking on the Delete my library option.

Movies and TV

This service contains a list of the movies you have downloaded, and deleting them should be pretty straightforward.

Newsstand

Similar to other Google products, Newsstand will keep track of what you read. If you do not want this data to be saved, use a third-party news app.

YouTube

Navigate to the YouTube settings page, and you would be able to view all of your previous searches. You can delete the playback history and toggle off the option which allows Google to save it.

How much am I revealing to Google?

Google collects private data

Google can manage to pull out most of your information from the dashboard itself. On top of that, Android devices tend to have many features turned on by default. Gmail, YouTube, Google, Maps etc. are only some of the mandatory Google apps, and they can save or transmit most of your data. However, you can remain safe by managing the settings available and disabling the save and track features.

Have you encountered privacy issues with your Android device before? Tell us about your experiences in the comments, and should you wish to learn more about this topic, take a look at the articles about adware on Google Play and why factory reset might not erase all of your data.

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