Smartphone Compromises Your IdentityToday’s smartphones contain nearly every detail of our lives, which means that protecting your identity on the device starts with good cybersecurity practices. To help you protect yourself from unknowingly exposing your personal information tracked and stored on your phone, we detailed four ways your smartphone compromises your identity.

Photos may reveal your location

Some cameras, like those on smartphones, will embed what’s known as EXIF data (Exchangeable Image File) into photos. This data, a type of metadata, often details the exact geographic coordinates where a photo was taken as well as the phone name, model number and details about the phone’s camera. EXIF isn’t new, as nearly every digital camera encodes some form of this data because it’s useful to photographers, but in the wrong hands, photos with EXIF data could be used to identify you.

The good news is that a lot of social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, scrub EXIF data from your photos after you upload them, which means if you only upload photos to those sites, you’re in the clear. However, not every photo-sharing or social media site does this. For example, if you simply email a photo, text it or transfer it to a computer, chances are it will retain its EXIF data until you manually remove it. Removing EXIF data using your phone can be challenging because neither Android, nor iOS (nor Windows Phone for that matter) provide default apps to delete or even view this data. That said, you could use third-party apps to add this functionality to your phone — just make sure you’re downloading legitimate apps — or, alternatively, you can move your photos to your computer and remove the data with a few clicks, as explained here.

Location features may create detailed logs of everywhere you’ve ever been

Geolocation is nothing new, as it’s something we’ve written about before, but in the last three years, features like iPhone’s Frequent Locations and Google’s Location History have emerged, revealing the most extensive location data that’s popped up in recent years. Both features are essentially the same – they track and report everywhere you’ve gone while using an Apple or Google device. Along with tracking the location, these features note the date, time and duration of each individual visit alongside a map marking the location. Apple and Google’s respective privacy policies assure you that only you can view this information, but in a world where data breaches are essentially an everyday occurrence, it’s a little alarming to think that a company would have this much information. That’s because if someone accesses your accounts or devices, they can easily view this information and use it to figure out where you live or work, as well as your daily schedule and favorite hangouts. On the bright side, Apple and Google allow users to disable these features. While Apple buries the option pretty deep into iOS’s settings, which is explained here, Google makes things a little easier, as you’ll see here. Something to be aware of is that disabling your phone’s geolocation altogether may disable phone-finding features, like Apple’s Find My iPhone or Google’s Find My Phone, which is something to consider if you often misplace your devices.

Another thing to keep in mind is if you have any type of account with Google, even just a Gmail account, you’ve opted into all of its services. Whether or not you own an Android device, if you’ve ever registered for Gmail, YouTube or another Google service, Google may have recorded your location information when you logged into the account. Disabling Google Accounts’ location tracking, as explained here, means that you’ll lose some of Google’s predictive power, as services like Google Now and Google Maps use your location history to predict your needs and pull up relevant information automatically.

Bluetooth and Wi-Fi may expose your device

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth make it easy to connect to nearly any and every device, but when you leave Wi-Fi or Bluetooth on and your phone isn’t connected anything, it begins actively seeking out other devices and networks by broadcasting its presence to those nearby. Even though automatically connecting to networks might save you from data overages and add convenience, it’s a privacy nightmare. That’s because fraudsters have been known to leverage these smartphone features to dupe users into automatically connecting to fraudulent Wi-Fi networks or malicious Bluetooth connections that steal their data — something we often warn about with public Wi-Fi. That’s why it’s in your best interest to turn off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi when you’re not using them (or you’re in a public space) — it’ll not only going save your battery, but also protect your privacy.

Browsing history may reveal personal information

If you lose your phone, your mobile browsing history could reveal a lot about you, including where you bank, businesses you frequent and more. While it’s important to manage your mobile browsing settings, the ways of doing it will vary based on the phone or browser you’re using. Private browsing (e.g., using an Incognito tab in Google Chrome) on your mobile browser is an option, but it’s likely not a realistic one. As such, you may want to consider deleting your browser’s history every month or so, or look into your browser’s history settings, as some browsers allow you to set your browsing history to delete once you close the app, providing a more convenient alternative to private browsing. Note that none of these options prevent you from being tracked; your activity can still be seen if your machine is compromised by malware or if you’re accessing an open and insecure network, as is the case with public Wi-Fi or malicious Bluetooth connections.

Keep reading our technology blog to learn more about how you can protect your identity and personal information while using the Internet or your devices.