Picture this. You just unboxed your brand new smartphone (one of Googles many Android smartphones, in this case). You turn it on, go through the initial setup, and you are finally ready to download apps, stre am videos, and make use of all the latest features.
But your smartphone has a dirty little secret. By default, unknowingly to you, your smartphone is configured to report and upload all of your browsing history, searches, photos, videos, personal information, visited locations, and related data back to your phone manufacturer and service providers servers. This also impacts your data plan, battery life, and overall use of the phone dramatically.
Scary right? Good thing they allow us to turn these features off. But the average smartphone user (yes, including you, your friends, and family members) has no idea how to. I encourage you to share this post with everyone you know; following the steps below will free you from the unknown world of corporate data mining.
*PLEASE NOTE THAT THE STEPS ON YOUR PHONE MAY DIFFER SLIGHTLY FROM THOSE DESCRIBED BELOW. IF YOU INTEND ON ACTUALLY USING ONE OF THE FEATURES BELOW THEN THERE IS NO NEED TO DISABLE IT.
DISABLE PERSONALIZED ADS
Google makes money through advertisements. But as a normal human being, who wants to be tracked and marketed to? You can turn this feature off by going to Settings > Accounts > Google > Ads > Uncheck â€œPersonalize Google Ads in Appsâ€.
DISABLE WEB HISTORY
This one will shock most of you. From your computer, go to the following link (http://history.google.com) and sign into the same Google account that you are signed into as on your smartphone. What most of you will see is all of the browsing history, visited locations, and searches you have performed since the beginning of time, all being reported back to Google. Click on the gear icon at the top right, go to Settings, and Turn off web history. Then click All Historyâ on the left, and page by page delete your history until there is none left. Now on your smartphone, go to Settings > Accounts > Google > Search > turn off â€œWeb historyâ€ and turn off â€œPersonal resultsâ€.
A Google+ profile is automatically created for you without your knowledge (or accidently created and forgotten about) which stores your contact information, photos, videos and other related data for the public to see. Most of us do not use Google+, or have any idea about what it is, so this feature is completely pointless as well as a major privacy burden. From your computer, go to the following link (http://accounts.google.com/) and sign into the same Google account that you are signed into as on your smartphone. Once signed in, towards the bottom click on â€œDelete profile and remove related Google+ features., then Delete your entire Google profiles (unless you have a YouTube channel that you avidly use, click Delete Google+ content (instead), check off Also unfollow me from anyone I am following in Buzz, Google Reader, and other Google products.â€ and â€œRequired: I understand that deleting this service cant be undone and the data I delete cant be restored. then finally click Remove selected services. Now on your smartphone go to Settings > Device > Application manager > Google+ > Uninstall.
Picture this, you are at a friends BBQ, you snap a couple of photos of a group shot of everyone, and choose one to keep. Guess what? All of the photos you just took were automatically uploaded to Picasa, while using your data plan, and without your knowledge. To turn this feature off, go to Settings > Accounts > Google > Your Email Address > uncheck anything with â€œPicasaâ€ and â€œPhotosâ€ in it. Then from your computer, go to the following link (http://picasaweb.google.com) and sign into the same Google account that you are signed into as on your smartphone. Once signed in you can delete the albums and photos that have previously been synced.
DISABLE LOCATION TRACKING
Location is on by default, and it constantly searches for a signal while sucking up your battery life, yet most of us only need it if we are using an app that requires GPS. To turn location off, go to Settings > Personal > Location services > uncheck everything. You can use the same steps to turn location on if you ever actually need it.
DISABLE AUTOMATIC UPDATES
It is good to keep your apps up to date, but automatic updating and reporting usually gets in the way of using your smartphone, as well as using your data plan. Go to Play Store > Menu > Settings > uncheck Notifications (select) Do not auto-update apps under Auto-update apps uncheck Auto-add widgets select Clear search history. From now on, if you would like to update your apps, simply go to the Play Store > Menu > My apps > Update (if the option is there, otherwise everything is already up to date).
You can also go to your Google dashboard (http://www.google.com/settings/dashboard) to see all the data that Google has on file for you, and remove anything else you deem necessary.
Personally, I only sync my contacts and calendar events. My emails are stored on GMail, and my photos and videos are on my SD card. Plain and simple. And no, I do not use the â€œBackup Assistant that comes preconfigured in the phone; I turn that off, and only use Google to sync my data. What is the point of having duplicates and triplicates of the same data?
Once you have configured your sync settings to your liking, you can double check that it actually syncs by adding a contact or calendar event on your phone (remember to choose your Google account as the save location), then signing into your Google account on your computer to see if that contact or calendar event is there as well.
I hope this information has enlightened you as much as it did when I first discovered it!