In many ways, our devices are a reflection of who we are – the good, the bad, and the downright dull. They store candid conversations with our friends, endless memories in the form of photos and videos, search histories we’re maybe not too proud of, and a multitude of other things.
There’s a common misconception that if you want to lock someone out, then you must be hiding something. Maybe you are hiding something. Or maybe you just want some privacy. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines Privacy as:
“The quality or state of being apart from company or observation”
“Freedom from unauthorized intrusion”
Who doesn’t want that? It’s a basic human desire. Some people will argue that their desire to satiate their curiosity or put their suspicions to rest trumps your right to privacy. This is false.
Unfortunately, sometimes just saying “No, I don’t want you to look at my device” isn’t enough to discourage some people. Humans are complex creatures and being told we can’t have something often makes us want it more. Or maybe the topic has never arisen, but you want to take precautionary measures anyway.
Luckily, there are several ways you can girlfriend or boyfriend proof your devices. Let’s take a look.
Snoop Proofing Your Phone or Tablet
Lock Your Phone or Tablet!
This is your first line of defense. For someone to snoop on your phone or tablet, they first need to get in there. Don’t make this part easy by leaving your phone unlocked and vulnerable to snooping eyes. Using a lock screen password may seem obvious, but a surprising number still don’t secure their phone in this way. A 2018 report by cybersecurity provider Kaspersky Lab, found that only 48% of people surveyed password-protected their phone. This is alarmingly high!
If you’re one of this 48% then now is the time to protect your phone. Apple product users will be asked to create a 6 digit passcode. It was formerly 4 digits but updated to 6 digits in 2015 with the launch of iOS 9 for greater security. Why are 6 digits better than 4 digits? When it comes to PIN passcodes, the more digits, the better. By increasing the number of digits you increase the number of possible combinations a hacker would need to try to successfully break into your device.
For a 4 digit passcode, there are 10,000 possible combinations to choose from. With 6 digits the number of possible combinations increases by a factor of 100, meaning there are a staggering one million possible combinations. Now, of course, your partner isn’t a hacker (we hope), but it’s still good practice to use secure passwords, especially if you conduct any banking or access your social media accounts via your device. And let’s face it, it’s 2020, who doesn’t?
To set up your passcode on an apple device, follow these directions:
- Go to settings.
- Scroll down to Face ID & Passcode. This will be Touch ID & Passcode, or just “Passcode” for older devices.
- Tap to turn Passcode on. You will then be prompted to enter a 6 digit passcode.
Androids are known for their distinctive pattern lock option, but you actually have a few options if you’re not a fan of pattern locks. Your native options are a 4 digit pin, pattern lock, or a password. Follow these directions to set it up:
- Go to Settings.
- Scroll down to find “Security”, “Security and Screen Lock” or just “Lock Screen” depending on what version of Android you’re using. Click it.
- Click on “Screen Lock Type” and choose your preferred option.
If you want to use a PIN but 4-digits aren’t enough for you, you also have the option of downloading a third-party app. Some apps like CM Lock – Security Lock Screen even let you set individual PINs for different apps.
Face unlock or other biometric options are also a great choice. Just be aware that some facial recognition software will unlock the phone even if your eyes are closed, so this wouldn’t protect you against a determined partner. Google’s latest phone, the Pixel 4 is reported to unlock even when your eyes are closed. For iOS users, Apple has an option called “Require Attention for Face ID”. If this is turned off, your device will also unlock with your eyes closed.
Finally, don’t pick a PIN or pattern that is easy to decipher just by watching you. In 2018 Kanye West was filmed unlocking his iPhone during a meeting with President Trump. It was very clear that his passcode was 000000. Don’t be like Kanye.
You can decide which notifications, if any, will appear on your lock screen. If there’s something specific that you don’t want your partner to see, like sensitive messages, then this is a great option. Tailor your notifications so that only the ones that you are comfortable with your partner seeing will appear on the screen.
If you’re on iOS then follow these instructions:
- Go to Settings and scroll down to Notifications.
- At the top, you will see Show Previews. If you click on it you will be presented with three options. These are “Always”, “When Unlocked”, and “Never”.
If you choose “Never”, then you won’t see a preview of the notification even when you unlock your phone, you’ll instead have to go into the app. However, the notifications will still appear on your lock screen. If you want to avoid this entirely and essentially silence a particular app, then you can do this by turning off notifications for that app.
If you’re an Android user:
- Go to Settings and then General.
- Tap Apps & notifications > Notifications > Lock screen.
- You will then be presented with three options. These are “Show all notifications”, “Hide sensitive notifications”, and “Hide all notifications.
If you select “Hide sensitive notifications”, then your lock screen will not show the content of messages or emails, but still show previews for other apps.
Keep Your Device on You at All Times
Get in the habit of carrying your phone around with you at all times. Assuming your partner isn’t a Mr Robot style hacker, they aren’t trying to remote hack into your phone. They need to physically have your device in their hands to get into it. Take away the opportunity by carrying your device with you.
If you have lost sight of your device in the past and suspect your partner had taken it with them, you can check the location history. If enabled, both Apple and Android users can use Google Maps Timeline to see a list of places their device has visited, along with the time. If you have location services enabled then Google Maps will have a timeline for you. Simply click on the app, click on your account icon, and finally click on “Your timeline”.
iPhone users also have an additional option called “Significant Locations”. Significant Locations will also show you a list of all places you (or your device) has recently visited. Here’s how you find it:
- Go to Settings > Privacy.
- Click on Location Services.
- Scroll down to System Services.
- Scroll down again until you hit Significant Locations. You will be prompted to enter your passcode or use Face ID to get access.
Your partner can’t snoop through your messages if there are no messages. You can restrict the amount of data you keep on your device if you’re concerned about snooping.
iOS users can choose to keep messages for 30 days, 1 year, or forever. It works a little differently on Android but there’s still a similar option. You can tell your phone to delete old messages when a set number of messages has been reached. You’re free to set your own limits here.
Choose Your Apps Wisely
Sometimes there’s absolutely no ill intent behind wanting to keep your device private. It could just be a personal stance you take on your own privacy and how you think trust should be handled in a relationship. Or maybe you’d normally have no problem with your partner looking at your device, but you’ve been planning something they can’t know about, like a proposal or a surprise party. However, there is another common category, illicit relationships. We’re not here to judge. If you call into this category, then consider which apps you use to communicate.
Snapchat is known for its self-erasing messages that allow for a more secretive conversation. However, everyone knows this and using Snapchat might arouse suspicion. WhatsApp and Facebook messenger also now allow for self-destructing messages. These apps are much less likely to raise any eyebrows because of how frequently they are used for general communication purposes.
Take Control of Your Device
You’ve now got everything you need to know about girlfriend or boyfriend proofing your device. You have a right to privacy, but you must be proactive in fulfilling it. This means removing any opportunity for an invasion of privacy by turning your device into a digital fortress.
Still have questions?
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