What will you check before handing over your smartphone?
Retrospective on data we have on handsets
Suppose you are handing away your mobile to a friend to use from now on. What all will you check before handing it over? How about if you are exchanging it with your mom or dad?
(Ok, we are ruling out the factory reset option, why? Because we want this blog post to proceed, and more importantly, let’s assume we want to hand over the convenience of pre-installed apps to our friend as well.)
Let’s do a quick scan and figure out what all a person can know from the present state of our smart phone.
Let’s go through your apps and folders~
Starting with the image gallery. Ah, good old times, old friends, fun videos, cool trips, you time travel a bit.
Once the nostalgia fades away, you check if these pics are synced to the cloud already, if not, you back up them on a different device and delete them.
Done. Safe to handle now?
How about Downloads folder? Well the content of this will majorly differ from person to person, in my case however, you’d get access to all my boarding passes and books. So you’d know where all I have travelled recently and what all I am reading presently.
Wait, are my Uber or Ola accounts (or other cab accounts) still logged in? They show where all I go on a daily basis, literally my footprints around the city. Looking at the history of these apps, one can easily figure out your work location, your home address, the addresses of your friends or girlfriend or boyfriend or other frequent hosts, malls you go to, movie theatres you go to (also movie you would have watched), no doubt, one can easily figure out how you spend your weekend as well (given you only rely on cabs for mobility). Keeping them logged in will let the new user not only use your account balance but also get notifications of all of your future trips. Log them out, asap.
What else? Paytm logged in? Your account details would be at risk, not a lot of juicy stuff here though, but totally depends what all you use paytm for. Might also reveal your transactional relationships with other people like flatmates or how much your electricity bill comes or details like that which a friend might not be interested in after all.
Shopping apps, woah, these are dicy, not your order history but specifically your shipping addresses, these will reveal where all you send gifts to.
Messages, the one app which is almost obsolete had it not been for OTPs. What can be hidden here? Well your monthly budget! All your debit /credit transactions are logged here, one can easily know your monthly expenditure. To top them, messages from Banks also show your current bank balance. So, yea that app is not as insignificant as it seems.
Swiggy, FoodPanda, or whatever Eats you have signed up for. Again, the kind of food you eat, preferences you have, addresses you order for, amount you order will often reveal your lifestyle details.
Google drive is another Pandora’s box that is capable of holding everything from your college assignments to your first love/hate letter to your resumes. Everything! I hope you’ll definitely log out of Google Accounts, before your photos, docs, mails, hangouts(video call history) and most importantly browser history is compromised. I feel browser history is the most powerful digital signal to reveal anyone’s present state of mind including fears, challenges, aspirations, ambitions, crushes, future plans, interests etc.
And it’s not just the apps you are logged into. The number and kind of apps will also tell about your personality. Eg, I have a test virus app and Termux (terminal) installed on my mobile, clearly shows I am a programmer. If some has an ICICI app installed, that clearly shows which bank his/her savings account is likely to be in. There is so much data and there are just so many inferences one can draw about YOU, your habits, life, ambitions, relationships, mobility, health, food preferences, account balance, profession, music taste, social spheres, sleeping hours, what not.
So we can safely bring home the point that
your mobile is your life’s log. You won’t dare to give it away just like that, would you?
But guess what, you already have. Majority of apps that you use are by a single company. The others heavily use the developer frameworks or SDKs provided by the same company. For Android, it is Google. So inherently it won’t be wrong to say that a company out there, be it Google, Facebook or Apple knows everything about you.
How much would you trust it?
This post is authored under the concept of Summer of 90s.
Summer of 90s is an initiative to consciously analyze our usage of tech and spread awareness about the issues it brings along like digital privacy, security, tech addictions and design ethics.
You’re welcome to join us in the cause!
What will you check before handing over your smartphone? was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.