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Take charge of privacy: Make accounts on Facebook, WhatsApp & Google safe

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Online privacy has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Contrary to popular belief, you actually have a fair amount of control over the information apps collect about you, including your advertising profile, who sees your info and which apps have access to your data. Here’s what you need to change if you still want to keep using these services.Find Out What Google Knows About YouBy default, Google collects a massive amount of data on you. Once you sign in to your Google account on a web browser, head to here. First off, don’t get alarmed — all of this information is visible only to you (after signing in). However, you should know what’s being saved, you should have control over it and you should know how to delete it. This ‘bundle’ page has everything you’ve done, including searches you’ve made, what areas you saw on Maps and what apps you downloaded. On the same page, click on My Account to get an overview. On this page, we recommend you initiate the Security and Privacy checkups — you’ll see some settings here that you might want to change.If you use YouTube, head to – here, you’ll see a list of every search you’ve made on YouTube and every video you’ve watched. On the top right are options to delete this history. Also, you may have — at some point — given third-party apps access to your Google account. You can view all of these (and individually revoke access) by heading to this page. Finally, you can control the information Google uses to show you personalised ads. To toggle this on/off, head to this page. The downside of this is that the ads you see might not be relevant to you — but at least it stops Google from sharing this info about you with advertisers. If you’d rather leave this setting on, scroll down to see the interests. Remove the topics/interests that are not relevant to you and you’ll start seeing some differences in a few days.Delete Contacts from FacebookFirst, you need to make sure that you’re not uploading your contacts to Facebook. On the iPhone app, open the menu by tapping the three horizontal lines. Scroll down to find Settings, tap Account Settings > General > Upload Contacts. Make sure the toggle is off. On the Android app, tap the three horizontal bars, go to App Settings and make sure the toggle for Continuous Contacts Upload is off. Next step, login to Facebook using a web browser on a computer and head to this link. Here’s where you’ll find all the contacts that have been auto-uploaded by Facebook Messenger. Facebook says these are used to make friend suggestions and to help them build a better service. Towards the top, you’ll see a button that says ‘Delete All’. Go ahead and remove them — your phone contacts and Facebook friends will not be affected.Manage Facebook Privacy SettingsFacebook’s Activity Log Tool shows you all posts and all activity (even videos/posts you liked) from now till the time you first started using Facebook. You can access this info from the app itself by clicking on Settings > Activity Log. You can also download a copy of all your Facebook data if you like. But the thing we recommend every Facebook user do is the Privacy Checkup, found in Privacy Shortcuts/Settings. This lets you choose your audience, select what information about you that you want to share and finally App Privacy (this is the more important bit). You can see every app that you’ve used Facebook to log into. It also shows you the audience that each app can reach. If you see something you don’t recognize, remove the app and activity associated with it by tapping the ‘X’ next to the name.WhatsApp is Secure, Its Backups are NotYou probably know that WhatsApp uses end-toend encryption. This means that no-one, not even WhatsApp, can read or see the messages you send or receive. From a security standpoint, this is ideal because even if a government agency makes a request to WhatsApp, they are unable to provide the data. That’s just how private key encryption works. However, almost all WhatsApp users save chat backups. In case of iOS, this is stored in Apple’s iCloud and on Google Drive in case of Android. You might even have backups stored locally on your device. Backups are not encrypted and therefore, all that the government agency needs to do is petition Google or Apple to release a backup file from their servers to gain access to all those conversations.

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