How to protect private pictures on your phone

Everyone’s entitled to keeping private pictures on their cell phone: after all, it is your private property. Still, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a risk of someone else getting their hands on them, especially depending on how secure you keep your phone (or backup method).

Aside from locking your phone and using strong passwords, there are a ton of safety features on your phone that can help make it more secure and keep your private photos just that: private.

Learn how to disable photo sync

When your iPhone or Android connects to Wi-Fi, your photos are automatically synced to iCloud, Dropbox or Google. These online spaces are generally secure, but it doesn’t hurt to be cautious and disable photo sync for particularly sensitive photos.

To disable the photo sync on Android, follow these instructions.

For iPhone, take a look here to see where your photos are being stored when they’re backed up to iCloud, and how to turn it off.

Once auto-sync is disabled, you can take photos and delete them before turning it back on so that they can’t be retrieved. You can also choose to keep it permanently turned off, but then you won’t have backups of your photos.

Enable two-step verification right away

Your password alone is not enough to secure the photos you have stored in Google, iCloud or Dropbox. You need one more security feature: two-step verification, which is available for most popular apps.

Two-step verification asks for an additional security code whenever you connect to your account from an unknown location. As a result, even if a hacker guesses your password, they won’t be able to connect because they’ll need your phone’s security code.

To enable two-step verification on your favorite services, follow the official instructions for each site:

Put a lock on your phone screen

Using a phone without a screen lock is as risky as parking the car and leaving the keys in the ignition. Activate screen lock as soon as possible to prevent people from looking at, or even worse, taking your photos whenever you put your phone down.

In iOS, you can activate Touch ID or PIN lock. In Android, you can use patterns or facial recognition to lock your screen. Either way, both are easy to use. iOS also features an option that erases your data after a certain number of failed attempts.

Apple’s Touch ID in action (photo courtesy of iPhoneWorld)

Remotely erase your data if your phone is stolen

If your phone has been lost or stolen, you can try and locate it through Find My iPhone (iOS) or Android Device Manager (Android). These are official apps that use the phone’s antenna to locate it on the map. Here’s how it works.

If you locate your phone and want to remotely delete its contents because retrieving it might not be a possibility, both apps have commands to start remotely erasing the data. Once initiated, the process can’t be reversed.

Store your pictures in hidden folders

If more than one person uses your smartphone or tablet, it may be a good idea to hide your photos using privacy apps such as Picture Safe (iOS) or Hide Something (Android), which serve as hidden folders and are protected by access codes.

The great thing about these apps is that they don’t alter your main gallery. A code, however, is required to view private photos. In Hide Something, for example, you have to draw a pattern.

Use Camera apps that don’t leave footprints

Taking photos with the camera apps included in iOS or Android might not always be the best option: they store all files in the main folder, which is usually the first place thieves will look. They also often auto-sync your photos to the cloud.

Alternative camera apps like Snapchat (Android, iOS) or Private Camera Pro (iOS) allow you to take photos and protect your privacy. While Snapchat automatically deletes the photos, Private Camera stores them in private folders.

Erase hidden data from your photos (Advanced option)

Your photos are full of metadata, which are hidden bits of information that indicate when and where a picture was taken, the camera model, and the app that was used. To keep damage to a minimum in case of theft, this data should be erased.

With Image Privacy (Android), you can easily create copies of your photos without the metadata: just share them with the app. On iPhone, you can use Metadata Cut and GeoGone, which function the same way.

Take pictures of what you want, but be mindful

Keep on taking photos. Whether they’re normal, intimate, funny, or even raunchy, you’re perfectly entitled to take these pictures and to have your privacy respected. Still, it doesn’t hurt to be careful: a mistake is always just around the corner. Following these tips, the risk of your photos ending up in the wrong hands will be significantly reduced.

Related Articles:

How private are your private messaging apps

How to permanently delete files on Android

What you need to know about syncing photos in iCloud

Follow me on Twitter: @remoquete

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