How to Prevent Phone Companies From Selling Your Browsing Data

18 December 2015

Sometimes it seems like magic. You spend two minutes on your smartphone browsing for new furniture online, and suddenly you’re seeing home decor ads inside every app and on every web page. It’s almost like advertisers know what you’ve been doing on your phone. That is infact exactly the case. But it’s certainly not magic.

One of the ways phone companies, from Google to Windows and yes, even Apple, fund their operations is by collecting your browsing data and selling it to advertisers. While this is intended to be beneficial for everyone involved (advertisers have a better chance of getting clicks by serving up targeted ads, you only have to see ads about things in which you’re interested and phone companies get to make a little extra cash), many consumers consider it a breach of privacy.

What’s more, distributing your information puts it at a higher risk of being stolen by hackers. This has little to do with the advertisers themselves, but the fact that the more places your data is stored the more chances it has to fall into the wrong hands especially considering how tempting a target advertisers’ data stockpiles can be to hackers. While the data that phone companies disseminate does not include sensitive personal or financial material, it does contain information identity thieves could use in a variety of ways making it important to protect.

Luckily, while they are not always easy to find, there are settings you can use to opt out of these targeted ad programs, effectively preventing phone manufacturers from sharing your data. In this post, we’ll walk you through how to activate these options on a variety of different phones.

  • iPhone: Go to Settings, then tap Privacy. At the bottom of this menu you’ll find a tab marked Advertising, under which you’ll see a button labeled “Limit ad tracking.” Slide the button so it shows green to activate this feature. This will stop ad companies from tracking what you do with your phone and serving up targeted ads. To clear any data that is already linked to your device’s identity on Apple’s servers, tap the “Reset Advertising Identifier” option.
  • Android: To turn off Google’s AdID system, head to your Google Settings app, not your Android phone settings. Then, find the Ads link and tap “Opt out of interest-based ads.” To disassociate any data that has already been collected from your future browsing, tap “Reset advertising ID.”
  • Windows Phone: To turn off ad tracking on a Windows phone, go to Microsoft’s ad opt-out webpage. Then, click “Off” under “Personalize ads whenever I use my Microsoft account.” To make sure this option applies to your mobile browsing, make sure you are signed into the same Windows account you use on your phone when updating your settings.

Of course, mobile providers can gather data from your smartphone using methods other than ad tracking, which aren’t always possible to opt out of. While there is no surefire way to prevent identity theft, you can help protect yourself from its damaging effects. Credit monitoring services like Identity Guard give you up-to-date notifications when they detect certain activity on your credit files that could indicate fraud. Armed with this timely knowledge, you will be empowered to take action immediately to freeze the fraudsters out of your account before they can do any serious damage to your finances or your borrowing ability. For more information, contact Identity Guard Canada today!