Tweak your tech settings to offer protection to your privateness

So much of our sensitive personal data is being tracked and sold that trying to protect our privacy can seem like a pointless exercise.

We can disable the location tracking on phone apps only to find new apps stalking us the next time we check. We can turn off personalized advertising and still get bombarded by marketers that ignore our wishes. We can be fooled by language that’s designed to protect companies’ access to data rather than our privacy.

All this surveillance allows advertisers to manipulate us into spending more. People who are struggling financially can be targeted by predatory lenders and other seedy companies. If there’s a database breach, criminals can buy our information for just a few dollars and use it to impersonate or target us for various scams.

As individuals, we have limited ability to stop the prying. Meaningful action typically must come from regulators and lawmakers. But we can take a few steps to reclaim small but significant chunks of privacy and send a signal to companies that we don’t like what they’re up to.


“It’s a way of making a statement to a company that you’re not going along with what they’re doing,” says independent journalist Bob Sullivan, a consumer privacy advocate and author of “Gotcha Capitalism.”

SET LIMITS ON LOCATION TRACKING

You may think it’s your own business how often you visit a liquor store, go to the gym or attend a religious service. But many companies are in the business of gleaning and using such data for marketing and other purposes. You can throw a wrench into this relentless location tracking by changing a few settings on your devices.

On iPhones and iPads, go to “Settings,” then “Privacy” to find “Location Services.” With Android devices, go to “Settings,” then “Location” to find “App location permissions.” Don’t worry that you’ll “break” an app by reducing or eliminating its ability to track you, says Thomas Germain, a technology and privacy writer at Consumer Reports. If you want to do something with the app that requires your location, the app will make it easy to turn that back on, Germain says.

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