Detox your device to protect yourself online

Hindustan Times | By
Jan 10, 2021 04:23 PM IST

All that time spent with your phone means you’ve accumulated tonnes of stored data, giving up more of your privacy to online apps and snoops. Here’s how to hit refresh for ease and safety.

This year, too, your phone will likely be attached to your palm for much longer than it should be. We’ve used our devices for work and play, to binge-watch and re-stream. What this can do to your brain, eyes and peace of mind is one major concern. Another is what it can do to your digital privacy.

Before life starts to imitate an episode of Black Mirror, consider clearing unused apps and stored data off your devices.(IMAGE COURTESY NETFLIX)
Before life starts to imitate an episode of Black Mirror, consider clearing unused apps and stored data off your devices.(IMAGE COURTESY NETFLIX)

“Know your device inside out. Own your device, don’t allow it to own you,” said data security expert Yash Kadakia, CTO of information security consultancy Security Brigade.

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Here are five steps towards ensuring you aren’t giving out more data than you need to.

Don’t download an app unless you have to. The tendency is to pick ease over security. The truth is that e-commerce giant’s website is as effective as its app, and easier to log out of after each transaction. Similarly, if you only use two ride-hailing apps, don’t keep the apps for all five that you once tried out. And always deactivate or log out before un-installing.


Spring-clean regularly. There are apps that you don’t use, or rarely use, or just used once, lurking in your directory, quietly collecting data on your location, contacts and usage habits. Uninstall them. It’s safer to download an app two or three times a year, whenever you need it, than keep it on your device. Clear out your browser history and all cached files at least once a month too, to minimise your digital footprint.

 Remember to disable the “Unknown Sources” option for app downloads in your phone’s security settings. If your device isn’t permitted to download apps from unknown sources, it can only install ones available on the Android Play Store or iOS App Store. This reduces the risk of malware being installed on your device. Think hard about app permissions carefully too, Kadakia says. “If some game wants access to your messages, camera, contacts, that’s a red flag and a sign that you should avoid it.”

Back up important files and photographs on a separate device, then clear out stored data on your phone. You’ll reduce the device to its essentials — a connectivity tool, not a photo album, document holder, souvenir corner or repository of official records.

Pause before you post. A big threat to digital security is, of course, the user’s own activity. There are so many instances of boarding passes posted on Instagram, complete with barcodes that can be scanned for a wealth of information. Or giddy updates on extended vacations that tell the world how long your home will be empty and unwatched. Even secure data rarely remains private forever, Kadakia says. “Only share data online if you are comfortable with the possibility that it will be made public at some point.”

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    Madhusree is a feature writer who loves Kolkata, is learning to love Mumbai. She loves to travel, write and bake

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