Android OS privacy settings: Relaxed level

Learn how to change your privacy settings on Android OS. These steps adjust your privacy and security settings to Relaxed 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.

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How to protect yourself against hacking

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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.


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.


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.


How to get rid of unwanted notifications and ads

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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.



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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