Android OS privacy settings: Medium level

Learn how to change your privacy settings on Android OS. These steps adjust your privacy and security settings to Medium level protection.
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Check your Google account settings

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Protect your Google account

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Most Android devices are linked to a Google account, so the security of your data directly depends on the security of this account. Therefore, you are advised to check the settings of your Google account in addition to your Android settings.


Settings may differ on your specific device

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Android is an open-source operating system. Device manufacturers may make significant changes to it, including modifications to the interface. Therefore, the appearance of Android may significantly differ on devices from various manufacturers. For example, the menu may contain more or fewer menu items, they may be named differently, or may be missing entirely. The following instructions are applicable to Android with the standard Google Shell (also known as "Stock Android"). This operating system version can be found on Pixel smartphones and on Android One devices. If you have the shell of a third-party developer installed, you will find the relevant settings in the equivalent sections of menus but with possibly different names.


How to hide your data from prying eyes

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Configure screen lock

What for: So that only you can unlock your device.

The safest way to unlock your screen is by using a password or a fingerprint scanner. A PIN code is easier to crack because it contains only numbers. A secret pattern is too easy to observe and remember. Finally, a facial recognition system can be deceived by a photo or 3D mask.

Use a strong password that meets the following criteria:

  • Consists of 8 or more characters.
  • Contains lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and special characters ($, @, etc.).
  • Is not too simple, such as 12345678 or qwerty.
  • Is not the same as any of your other passwords, including for your Google account.
  • Is not an actual word or known phrase.
  • Does not consist of information that strangers could easily find out (your name, date of birth, pet's name, or those of your relatives and friends).

To set a password:

  1. Open Settings;
  2. Go to the Security section;
  3. Select Screen lock;
  4. Enter your current PIN code or your unlock pattern;
  5. Select Password;
  6. Enter a strong password and tap Next;
  7. Enter your password again and tap Confirm;
  8. Configure the appearance of notifications on your locked screen by selecting one of the following options:
  9. Show all notification content is the least secure option. Anyone could view the text of notifications.
  10. Show sensitive content on unlocked screen only is the optimal solution. You will see which app sent the notification but will not see the notification contents on the locked screen.
  11. Don't show notifications is the most secure option. However you could miss a potentially important message or e-mail when using this option.

Please keep in mind that even if you are planning to unlock by fingerprint, you should first set a strong password. Your device provides the capability to sign in with a password or PIN code in case the fingerprint scanner malfunctions. A simple combination will be easy to crack if your phone ends up in the wrong hands.

To configure sign in by fingerprint:

  1. Open Settings;
  2. Go to the Security section;
  3. Select Fingerprint;
  4. Tap Fingerprints and password;
  5. If necessary, enter your password;
  6. Tap Next;
  7. Follow the on-screen instructions;
  8. You can add up to 4 additional fingerprints, for example, from the fingers of your other hand. This will allow you to unlock your device even if one of your hands is occupied;
  9. Tap Done.

Turn off notifications on the lock screen

What for: To prevent snooping.

App notifications can appear on the screen of your device even when it is locked. Some notifications probably contain information that you would prefer not to share. For example, you may receive a text message containing a confirmation code from your bank. You can configure your system to show only the app icon instead of a notification while your device is locked, or you can completely block the display of notifications.

To edit notification settings:

  1. Open the Settings menu;
  2. Go to the Apps & notifications section;
  3. Select Notifications;
  4. Tap On lock screen;
  5. If you want to conceal the text of notifications, turn off Sensitive notifications;
  6. If you want to completely disable notifications during sleep mode, tap Notifications on lock screen and select Don't show notifications.

Downside: You will have to unlock your phone to read a notification.


How to protect yourself against hacking

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Check for updates

What for: To keep your protection up to date.

Any system may contain flaws that enable it to be hacked. Developers regularly fix vulnerabilities in the operating system and add new security functions, so you are advised to use the latest version of Android for the best security.

The system is updated automatically by default, but you can manually check for the availability of a new version at any time. To do so:

  1. Open Settings;
  2. Go to the System section;
  3. Tap Advanced;
  4. Select System updates;
  5. Tap Check for updates;
  6. If the system finds uninstalled updates, tap Install updates.

Turn on Google Play Protect

What for: To protect yourself against overly curious and malicious apps.

Your smartphone is protected by the Google Play Protect service by default. It scans all the apps that you download to your device regardless of its source. If an app is dangerous, conceals something from the user, or secretly collects private data, you will receive the appropriate notification. We recommend that you do not turn off this security tool. If you nonetheless have disabled it, you are advised to activate it. To do so:

  1. Open the Settings menu;
  2. Go to the Security section;
  3. Select Google Play Protect. The Google Play app opens;
  4. Tap the gear icon in the upper right corner of the screen;
  5. Turn on Scan device for security threats.

You can manually scan apps at any time. To do so, in the Google Play Protect section, tap the arrow in the upper right part of the screen. Please note that the built-in app scanning service provides only the basic level of security. For best protection against threats, use a full-fledged anti-virus application for Android.

Rock-solid online protectionSafe and private browsing with Kaspersky Secure Connection

How to protect your data

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Turn on Find My Device feature

What for: To find your device if it is lost or stolen.

This feature enables you to find your phone and lock it in case it is lost or stolen. It also lets you delete all data from your phone, call it, or contact the mobile service provider.

To enable the Find My Device feature:

  1. Open the Settings menu;
  2. Go to the Security section;
  3. Select Find My Device;
  4. Turn it on;
  5. If Location is turned off, you will see the message "The Find My Device service is not running." Tap the warning text and activate Location.

Please note that you will only be able to find your device if it is turned on, has an Internet connection, and is transmitting its location data.

Downside: Location services must always be enabled on your device. This means that your device will use up more battery, and your location information will be transmitted to Google.

Check the security of your saved passwords or delete them

What for: To not lose all your accounts at once.

When you sign in to an account of some service on a website or in an app, Google may prompt you to save the password so that it can be automatically inserted during your next authorization. This feature also lets you verify the security of your passwords that are saved in your Google account.

This is very important because if you are using identical passwords on different websites, the theft or leak of one of them may result in several of your accounts being hacked at once.

How to start a scan:

  1. Open the Settings menu;
  2. Go to the Google section;
  3. Select Manage your Google account;
  4. Scroll to the right until you get to the Security tab;
  5. In the Signing in to other sites block, select Password Manager;
  6. Tap Check passwords and confirm your selection;
  7. On the identity confirmation window, tap Continue;
  8. Confirm your identity by unlocking the screen;
  9. On the unlocked screen, you can view, edit, or delete any passwords that have been compromised, are duplicated, or are too easy to crack.

Even though the storage is protected, there is always a risk of data leaks. To reduce this risk, you can delete your passwords from your account. To do that:

  1. Open the Settings menu;
  2. Go to the Google section;
  3. Select Manage your Google account;
  4. Scroll to the right until you get to the Security tab;
  5. In the Signing in to other sites block, select Password Manager. You will see a list of accounts for which you have saved passwords;
  6. Tap the icon of the app or website whose password you want to delete;
  7. Tap Remove.

Please note that you may have also saved account credentials in other services other than Google Password Manager. They will still be available there.

Downside: You will have to manually enter your password on websites and in apps each time. You can eliminate this downside by installing a password manager with a reliable data encryption and security system.

Turn on Backup

What for: To not lose your data.

On devices running Android, important information and settings may be automatically saved in Google Drive. If you lose or break your phone, you can use your backup copy to restore your contacts, text messages, call log, installed apps, and phone settings.

To enable data backup to the cloud:

  1. Open the Settings menu;
  2. Go to the System section;
  3. Select Backup;
  4. Turn on Back up to Google Drive;
  5. To manually perform a backup, tap Backup now.

In this same section, you can enable synchronization of your photos and videos with Google Photos. To do so:

  1. Tap Google Photos;
  2. Turn on Back up & sync;
  3. By default, Google Photos downloads and synchronizes the contents of all folders containing photos and videos on your device. If you don't want files from a specific folder to be saved in the cloud, select Folders on device and tap the name of the folder whose data does not need to be synchronized.

To choose the quality of the files to be saved, tap Backup mode and select one of the following options:

  • Original quality means that the photos and videos will be uploaded in their original resolution. Please note that you cannot save more than 15 GB of data in Google Drive for free.
  • High quality means that the resolution of photos is reduced to 16 megapixels and the resolution of videos is reduced to 1080p. You can store an unlimited number of files with this quality.
  • Express backup means that the resolution of photos is reduced to 3 megapixels and the resolution of videos is reduced to 480p. You can store an unlimited number of files with this quality, and they will be uploaded to the server faster.

Downside: Saving data in the cloud increases the risk of data leaks. Do whatever you can to secure your Google account.


How to protect yourself from snooping

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Turn off location services

What for: To prevent Google from knowing where you go.

The operating system and some apps on your device collect information about your location. It is used for directions, targeted ad selection, and other purposes. If you do not want developers to receive this information, turn off Location services. To do that:

  1. Open Settings;
  2. Go to the Location section;
  3. Turn off Use location.

Downside: You will no longer be able to use the services and apps that require access to your location. For example, you will not be able to use navigation or find a lost smartphone with the search service.

Google can determine your location via GPS, Wi-Fi signals, mobile network, and device sensors. Although this increases the accuracy of your location, it provides the company with even more of your data. To turn off this feature, do the following in the Location section:

  1. Tap Advanced;
  2. Select Google Location Accuracy;
  3. Turn off Improve Location Accuracy.

You can also limit the transfer of location information without completely turning it off. To do so, prevent apps from receiving access to your location information in the background:

  1. Open Settings;
  2. Go to the Apps & notifications section;
  3. Select Advanced;
  4. Tap Permission manager;
  5. Select Location;
  6. Tap the name of the app whose access you want to restrict;
  7. Select Allow only while using the app.


Disable location history logging and clear the log

What for: To prevent your movements from being stored on Google servers.

Google may save a list of all the locations where you have been. This location log is used to choose targeted ads, perform searches, and some other functions. For example, this option lets you automatically receive information about traffic jams between your home and workplace. If you do not want your travel information to be saved on Google servers, you can clear this log and stop adding to it. To do so:

  1. Open Settings;
  2. Go to the Location section;
  3. Tap Advanced;
  4. Select Google Location History and turn it off;
  5. Scroll down the page and tap PAUSE;
  6. Tap Manage activity;
  7. The Maps app will open. If this app is not installed, the system will redirect you to Google Maps in your browser.

Maps app

To fully clear the log:

  1. Tap the three dots in the upper right corner of the screen;
  2. In the drop-down list, select Settings & Privacy;
  3. Tap Delete all Location History;
  4. Select the Yes, delete check box and confirm your selection.

To delete location data for a specific period:

  1. Tap Delete Location History range;
  2. Define the time period;
  3. Tap Continue;
  4. Select the Yes, delete check box and confirm your selection.

To enable automatic deletion of data every 3 or 18 months:

  1. Tap Automatically delete Location History;
  2. Choose how often Google should clear the history;
  3. Tap Next;
  4. Select the I confirm that this data should be deleted check box;
  5. Click Confirm.

Google Maps website

To fully clear the log:

  1. Tap the trash can;
  2. Select the I understand and want to delete all Location History check box;
  3. Tap Delete Location History.

To enable automatic deletion of data every 3 or 18 months:

  1. Tap the gear icon in the lower part of the screen;
  2. Select Automatically delete Location History;
  3. Choose how often Google should clear the history;
  4. Tap Next;
  5. Select the I confirm that this data should be deleted check box;
  6. Click Confirm.

Downside: Google will not be able to use information about your visited locations for the purpose of ad and search personalization. The system will also not be able to create albums containing photos based on a specific location.


How to hide your data from Google Assistant

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Block Google Assistant from showing your data on the lock screen

What for: To prevent Assistant from exposing your secrets to others.

Google Assistant can receive commands even when your phone is asleep, and it can show search results on a locked screen. For instance, it can also display or read aloud reminders, e-mails, and contacts. This can expose your private data.

To prevent it from exposing this information, block Assistant from showing results on a locked screen. To do so:

  1. Open Settings;
  2. Go to the Google section;
  3. Select Account services;
  4. Tap Search, Assistant & Voice;
  5. Select Google Assistant;
  6. Go to the Assistant tab;
  7. Scroll down the page and select your phone or tablet under Assistant devices;
  8. Under Personalization, turn off Personal Results.

Block Assistant from using your app and search history

What for: To prevent Assistant from knowing your every move.

Google Assistant can collect information about your search queries, location, and your activities when using apps. This data is used to increase the accuracy of recommendations and personalization of Google services. You can prevent Assistant from accessing this data.

  1. Open Settings;
  2. Go to the Google section;
  3. Select Account services;
  4. Tap Search, Assistant & Voice;
  5. Select Google Assistant;
  6. On the You tab, tap Your data in the Assistant;
  7. Scroll down the page to Google-wide controls;
  8. Tap Web & App activity;
  9. Turn off the toggle.
  10. Scroll down the page and tap Turn off;
  11. To clear the activity log, tap Manage activity;
  12. Tap the three dots in the upper right corner of the screen;
  13. Select Delete activity by;
  14. Tap All time;
  15. If necessary, clear the check boxes next to the services whose history you do not want to delete;
  16. Tap Next, then Delete and OK.

Assistant will still be able to search for information. However, the search results and recommendations will not include your preferences.


How to take control of apps

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Block apps from using Accessibility

What for: To prevent malware from taking control of your device.

Accessibility allows apps to directly interact with the interface and the system. For example, if you want to use a voice assistant, it must have the capability to see the contents of windows and to click buttons. However, malicious applications may also try to obtain Accessibility permission to spy on you or steal your money.

To check which apps have Accessibility access and to block this access:

  1. Open Settings;
  2. Go to Accessibility;
  3. Select the apps that you want to prevent from using Accessibility;
  4. Revoke the permission and confirm your choice.

If this causes a specific app to stop running or supporting the features you need, you can restore its access at any time.

Revoke unnecessary permissions from apps

What for: So that developers collect less information about you.

Apps often request more permissions than they require for their operation. Normally, this is because developers want to collect as much data from you as possible and use that data for advertising. Some applications may blatantly abuse these permissions. For example, they may send text messages, make phone calls, or take photos and videos without your knowledge. You should only grant these permissions if you are sure that they are absolutely necessary.

Fortunately, in the latest versions of Android, an app can be installed and started even without being granted all the permissions they request. For example, if a messenger requests permission to access your camera but you do not intend to send any photos or videos to your friends, you can deny this permission.

To check the permissions of apps and revoke unnecessary access:

  1. Open Settings;
  2. Go to the Apps & notifications section;
  3. Select Advanced;
  4. Tap Permission manager;
  5. Select the relevant permission. To see the entire list, tap Additional permissions;
  6. Tap the app name and select Deny to revoke its access.

If you attempt to revoke a permission that an app requires to continue working properly, you will see a warning. Even in this case, you can still deny access if you are confident in your decision.

You can always grant an app any necessary permissions again if it fails to start or fails to support the features you need.

Check the default apps

What for: So that malware does not replace a familiar service.

Every important action on your device is assigned to a specific app. For example, even if you have multiple browsers, websites will be loaded in only one of them by default. These apps are referred to as your default applications. Malicious applications may attempt to obtain this status so that they can intercept text messages from your bank, for example.

You can check which apps are assigned as your default apps. If a specific function is performed by an application that you do not recognize, we recommended that you change it. To do so:

  1. Open Settings;
  2. Go to the Apps & notifications section;
  3. Select Default apps;
  4. If you see that a specific function is handled by an app that you do not recognize, tap it and select a different one.


How to get rid of unwanted notifications and ads

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Turn off ad personalization.

What for: To prevent Google and apps from knowing what you like to do.

Google services may use your account data and information about your activities to select targeted ads. If you do not want to see ads based on your interests, you can disable personalization. To do so:

  1. Open Settings;
  2. Go to the Privacy section;
  3. Tap Advanced;
  4. Select Ads;
  5. Tap Opt out of Ads Personalization;
  6. Tap OK.

Please note that even if you disable personalization, you will still see ads, just not ones based on your interests. Instead, Google will take into account your location and the websites you have visited.

In addition, you can block Google and other advertising networks that are part of the Your Online Choices initiative from choosing the targeted ads that you see on websites, even if you are not signed in to your Google account. To do so, under Ads tap Ads by Google and follow the instructions in your browser or immediately go to the Your Online Choices page. The website will immediately begin checking your browser. After it finishes:

  1. Tap CONTINUE in the lower part of the page. You will see a list of advertising networks that track your online behavior;
  2. Tap OPT OUT OF ALL and wait for the operation to finish to prevent them from tracking you on the Internet.

Please note that companies not participating in the Digital Advertising Alliance initiative will still be able to track your online activities and use the information they receive.

Disable unwanted notifications

What for: For peace of mind.

Some apps may send you a large number of notifications that could be distracting and irritating. An endless flow of notifications could also cause you to easily miss something that is actually important.

You can disable certain types of notifications or completely block apps from sending them. To do so:

  1. Open the Settings menu;
  2. Go to the Apps & notifications section;
  3. Tap See all apps;
  4. In the list of apps, select the one that distracts you the most;
  5. Tap Notifications.
  6. If you want to completely block an app from sending notifications, find it in the list and deactivate the toggle for Turn on notifications.
  7. If you want to block only certain notifications, tap the app name and clear the check boxes next to the relevant events.

If you are irritated by notifications but do not know which app is sending them, you can view all the recent notifications and disable the unnecessary ones.

  1. Open the Settings menu;
  2. Go to the Apps & notifications section;
  3. Tap Notifications;
  4. Under Recently sent, tap See all from last 7 days;
  5. Turn off notifications from unknown apps by tapping the toggle on the right of their name.

You can configure notifications of specific apps directly from the notification itself. To do so, when you receive a notification:

  1. Swipe the screen from top to bottom;
  2. Tap and hold your finger on the notification that you want to configure;
  3. When the gear icon appears, tap it.
  4. If you want to completely turn off notifications of this app, tap Turn off notifications.
  5. If you want to silent the notifications of this app, tap Silent.


Turn on Do Not Disturb

What for: To not be distracted by notifications.

If notifications tend to ruin your concentration, you can enable Do Not Disturb mode. In this mode, you will not receive alerts regarding notifications.

To manually turn on Do Not Disturb:

  1. Open the Settings menu;
  2. Go to Sound;
  3. Select Do Not Disturb.

Important. After you manually enable Do Not Disturb mode, you will not receive any notifications until you disable this mode in the settings.

If you do not want to miss an important call or message, you can configure a list of exclusions in the menu.

  1. Tap Calls or SMS, MMS, and messaging apps depending on which notifications your exclusion will apply to;
  2. Tap Calls or Messages again in the appropriate menu;
  3. Select from whom you want to always receive notifications regarding calls or messages:
  4. Anyone
  5. Contacts only
  6. Starred contacts only
  7. To add a contact to the starred list, in the Calls menu tap Starred Contacts, then Add starred contacts;
  8. Under Do Not Disturb, tap All exceptions.

If necessary, choose whether you want to hear an alarm clock sound, screen touch sounds, receive notifications about events from your calendar, etc., while Do Not Disturb is turned on.

You can configure the system to turn on Do Not Disturb mode automatically when the device is sleeping or during events from your Calendar. To do so, do the following in the same menu:

  1. Select Schedules
  2. If you do not want notifications to disturb you at night, tap Nighttime.
  3. By default, Do Not Disturb mode is enabled every night from 10PM to 7AM. To configure your own schedule, tap the gear icon on the right. In the opened menu, you will be able to specify the days of the week and the time.
  4. If you do not want to be distracted by notifications during events from your Calendar, tap Event.
  5. To select the relevant calendar or assign special exception settings for this schedule, tap the gear icon on the right.


Limit device usage

What for: To prevent your dependence on devices from interfering with your life.

If you find it hard to pull yourself away from your device screen even during family dinner or before bed, you can use Bedtime mode. During the selected time, the system will go into a special mode and you will have less temptation for distractions.

To turn on Bedtime mode:

  1. Open the Settings menu;
  2. Go to Digital Wellbeing & parental controls;
  3. Select Bedtime mode;
  4. Chose how this mode should turn on:
  5. Based on schedule.
  6. While charging at bedtime.

During this time, the screen will be black-and-white, and you will not receive notifications.

Bedtime mode settings let you configure the following:

  • Select the days of the week and time when it will be enabled.
  • If you want an image to remain in color, turn off Grayscale.
  • If you are not yet ready to opt out of notifications, turn off Do Not Disturb.
  • If necessary, you can define a schedule for Night Light mode. This is a special operating mode of the screen that makes it easier to see the screen in dim light. To turn on this feature, select Night Light, tap Turn on and configure the filter intensity.

Please note that your defined settings for exclusions and schedules will be applied for Do Not Disturb mode.

Limit app usage time

What for: Less distraction.

If you are worried that you spend too much time using a specific app, you can set a limit on its usage. To do so:

  1. Open the Settings menu;
  2. Go to Digital Wellbeing & parental controls;
  3. To limit the time spent in a specific app, tap Dashboard;
  4. Select an app from the list;
  5. Tap App Timer and specify how much time you want to use the app.

When this period expires, the app will close and will be unavailable until the end of the day. However, if you suddenly need to use the app immediately, you can always delete the timer in this same menu.


What would have happened if you had chosen another privacy level?

Privacy level
?

Relaxed

Basic privacy settings, maximum convenience.


Medium

A golden mean respecting privacy matters but preserving convenience.


Tight

A choice of security over convenience; instructions contain a lot of details.

Relaxed
Medium
Tight
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