There is a catchy saying with a valuable lesson about our personal technology: The devil is in the presets.
The saying refers to the default settings that technology companies embed deep into the devices, apps, and websites we use. These settings usually cause us to share information about our activities and location. We can usually object to this data collection, but the companies make the menus and buttons hard to see, probably in the hope that we won’t optimize them right away.
Apple, Google, Amazon, Meta, and Microsoft in general want us to keep some default settings enabled, ostensibly to train their algorithms and find bugs that then make it easier for us to use their products. However, unnecessary sharing of data is not always in our best interests.
Therefore, with any tech product we use, it’s important to take the time to go through the many menus, buttons, and toggles to reduce the data we share. Here’s a streamlined guide to many of the default settings that I and other tech writers are always changing.
For iPhones, users can open the Settings app and go to the privacy menu to make changes how they share data about their app usage and location. (Apple technically asks people to opt in to some of these settings when activating a new iPhone, but these steps are easy to overlook. These tips would disable data sharing.)
Select Tracking and switch off Allow apps to request tracking. This tells all apps not to share data with third parties for marketing purposes.
To prevent Apple from using information about you to serve targeted advertising on its App Store, Apple News and Stocks, select Apple Ads and turn off Personalized Ads.
Select “Analytics & Improvements” and turn off “Share iPhone Analytics” to prevent iPhone from sending device data to Apple to improve its products.
Select Location Services, tap System Services and turn off iPhone Analytics and Routing & Traffic to prevent the device from sharing geospatial data with Apple to improve Apple Maps.
Google products, including Android phones and web services such as Google Search, YouTube and Google Maps, are tied to Google accounts, and the control panel to streamline data management is on the website myactivity.google.com.
Set auto-delete for all three categories—Web & App Activity, Location History, and YouTube History—to delete activity older than three months. In this way, instead of creating a permanent record of each search, Google deletes entries older than 90 days. In the short term, however, there may be helpful recommendations based on recent searches.
A bonus tip for Android phones comes from Ryne Hager, an editor of the tech blog “Android Police‘: Recent versions of Android allow people to tell apps an approximate location instead of their exact location. For many apps, such as For example, weather software, sharing approximate data should be the way to go, and precise geospatial data should only be shared with software that needs it to function properly, such as B. Map apps.
The most important Meta settings can be accessed via the Privacy Check Tool in the settings menu. Here are some important tweaks to prevent snooping by employers and marketers:
For Who can see what you share, choose Only me for people with access to your friends list and pages you follow, and Friends for people who can see your birthday.
Under “How others can find you on Facebook,” select “Only me” for people who can find you by email or phone number.
For “Your Facebook Advertising Preferences,” turn off the toggles for Relationship Status, Employer, Job Title, and Education. This prevents marketers from serving targeted ads based on this information.
Amazon’s website and devices
Amazon offers some control over how information is shared through its website and products like Alexa and Ring cameras. There are two settings I highly recommend turning off:
Amazon launched last year Amazon sidewalk, a program that automatically makes newer Amazon products share internet connections with other nearby devices. Critics say Sidewalk could open doors for bad actors to gain access to people’s data.
To disable it for an Echo speaker, open the Amazon Alexa app and tap More in the bottom right of the screen. From Settings, tap Account Settings, select Amazon Sidewalk, and toggle Sidewalk to the off position.
On a Ring camera, in the Ring app, tap the three-line icon in the top left, then tap Control Center. Tap Amazon Sidewalk and slide the button to the off position.
On the Amazon website, some shopping lists — like items saved on a wish list — are shared with the public by default, which can reveal information. Visit the your lists page and make each shopping list private.
Windows PCs have a variety of data sharing settings turned on by default to help Microsoft, advertisers, and websites learn more about us. The toggles for disabling these settings can be found by opening the Settings menu and clicking Privacy & Security and then General.
However, Windows’ worst default setting might have nothing to do with privacy. Whenever Kimber Streams, a Wirecutter editor, reviews new laptops, one of her first steps is to open the Sounds menu and select No Sounds to mute the many annoying chimes that play whenever something goes wrong with Windows .