Are you concerned about how apps and websites use your personal information? When a site or service seeks to utilize personal information like your location or browser clicks, Apple’s iOS 15 and Google’s Android 12 operating systems toughened up their privacy controls to give you additional warnings — and options. Here’s a rundown of those options.

Open System Settings and choose Privacy from the drop-down menu. There are various screens, menus, and switches for restricting app-by-app access to the phone’s hardware and software. Android 12 has a privacy dashboard that shows what apps have been doing, as well as shortcuts for regulating Google’s data collection and storage.

If you’re interested, Apple and Google have released statements regarding how they utilize your personal information. Remember that removing online trackers and location data can cause your free apps to behave differently, and many news and cultural sites utilize tracking software.

Location

For slightly greater privacy, you can share an approximate position rather than a specific one in current versions of iOS and Android.

Navigate to System Services on an iOS 15 device. You can choose which third-party apps can use your coordinates — and when they have permission to do so — by disabling or enabling location services. Select System Services to view how the iPhone utilizes your location, such as collecting “important locations” like your home address; you can turn this off or clear the history.

Open the Settings app on an Android 12 phone and tap Location to access the controls and see which apps have permission to utilize your location. You may also manage the Location History setting, which tracks your wanderings, by tapping Location Services.

Apps and Advertisements

When an app seeks to monitor your online activities, such as for targeted advertising, Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature alerts you. To access the controls, go to iOS 15 Settings, Privacy, and then Tracking.

Select Privacy in Android 12 to access a variety of choices, including the Ads tab, where you can erase your Advertising ID. Android will also cut off permissions for apps that haven’t been used in a while, according to Google.

Web

For decades, browsers have been used to track you using cookies and other code that monitors your behavior for marketing and advertising purposes. (While Safari’s Private Browsing and Chrome’s Incognito mode prevent browsing sessions from being saved, they’re no match for browser trackers.)

Safari, Apple’s browser, has tracking-blocking features. To make changes, go to Settings, then Safari, and scroll down to Privacy & Security. In Google’s Chrome browser’s settings, there’s also a privacy and Security section where you may request that sites don’t track you, albeit some do.

Another approach to avoid many web trackers is to use a privacy-focused browser program like Brave or DuckDuckGo. For the Android edition of its DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser, DuckDuckGo has launched its own App Tracking Protection Tool and an email protection feature, both of which are now in public testing.

Mail

Advertisers may utilize a “tracking pixel” in some messages, which is a little concealed graphic that reports back to the sender when you open the message. iOS 15 comes with its own mechanism for blocking mail trackers. Go to Settings, then Mail, select Privacy Protection, and then Protect Mail Activity to enable it.

Stop images from automatically loading and screaming on your activity in the Gmail app on Android or iOS. Tap the Menu symbol in the top-left corner, then Settings, then your account name, and then the “Ask before displaying external images…” option in the Images section. Unwanted mailing-list messages can always be blocked or unsubscribed from.

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