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Every time you use your phone to join a group chat, view a YouTube video, or do an online search, you leave a digital footprint. This trail may jeopardize your privacy if a buddy borrows your smartphone in the future. It also puts your personal information at danger if your phone falls into the hands of someone who isn’t trustworthy.

In this article, we’ll show you how to block your device from logging and storing data that might be readily accessed by others. Instead of restricting the information that applications transfer to the cloud, we’ll focus on cleaning up your phone’s local storage.

Go incognito

A data-limiting incognito or private mode is available in your phone’s web browser, just as it is on your PC. When you begin a session in this mode, the app will remember the pages you view and the terms you search as soon as the window is closed.

Private browsing, on the other hand, does not make you invisible. Incognito mode on Facebook’s online site, for example, does not prevent the social network from recording your activities. Your internet service provider (ISP) will be able to observe what you’re doing online and may keep track of it. You’ll need to use a virtual private network (VPN) to disguise your surfing from your ISP (more on that in this roundup of security gadgets and apps). Incognito mode, on the other hand, is highly successful at cleaning up the record that has been left on your phone’s local storage.

The method for enabling this mode may vary depending on the browser app you use. For example, in Chrome, press the Menu button (three dots) on the upper right of the page and select New Incognito Window to enter incognito mode. You may still erase your stored data if you forget to browse incognito. Simply return to the menu and select Settings. You’ll find a Clear browsing data option there, under Privacy and security. When you click it, a dialog window will open with a variety of data-clearing choices. Choose what works best for you and then click Clear data.

Tap the Show pages button (two squares) in the bottom right of the screen and choose Private for iPhone users who use Safari. When you touch the Plus button to start a new window, it will now be one that is incognito. Open the Settings app, find Safari, and hit Clear History and Website Data to delete data acquired outside of private mode.

Erase messages

Unless you use a chat software that allows you to send self-destructing messages, your chats will be recorded. Of course, most individuals like going back through old correspondence, but you don’t have to save every detail of a years-long conversation. You may manually remove these old chats, or you can opt for the less time-consuming alternative of having your chat history erased after a certain amount of time has passed.

Open the Settings app on iOS, click to Messages > Keep Messages, and set messages to expire after 30 days. You may manually delete chats from the front screen within the app: To delete a topic, swipe left on it and then press the Delete button.

Unfortunately, this auto-expunge feature is not available in all chat applications. Manual deletion may be necessary to remove any traces of chats from your phone. It will take some time, but it is not difficult. You may erase a discussion in Android’s messaging program, Messages, by long-pressing on it and then hitting the Trash button on the upper right of the screen.

Some programs make it simple to delete all of your history at once. To delete all chats on WhatsApp, go to Settings > Chats > Chat History > Delete All Chats. Then make a mental reminder to go back and delete your most recent texts on a regular basis.

Another option is to just send the self-destructing messages described before. Telegram Messenger, Facebook Messenger, and Snapchat are among the apps that provide this feature.

Limit app logging

Each of the apps on your phone will track your actions in a slightly different way. Some will allow you use incognito mode to evade their scrutiny, while others will cease following you if you ask.

For example, the YouTube app includes an incognito option that prevents the service from tracking your video viewing habits. To turn on Incognito mode on Android or iOS, launch the app, press your avatar in the upper right corner of the screen, and select Turn on Incognito.

Meanwhile, Google Maps may be keeping track of your movements. To turn it off, open the app, touch the Menu button (three lines) in the upper left corner of the screen, and select Settings. Select Personal content and then Location History from the options menu. When you hit that, you’ll be sent to your Google account, where you may disable the caching feature by flipping a toggle switch.

There are millions of applications on the market, and there are no hard and fast rules for keeping them from tracking your activities. However, in general, checking for the aforementioned settings—incognito mode and disabling tracking—is a smart starting step.

If you don’t see these choices, you’ll have to manually delete your activity. Depending on your operating system, this procedure may differ.

Open Settings > Apps on Android, select a title from the list, then click Storage. Clear data and Clear cache are the two options you’ll see. Clear them both, and the program will delete all of the data it holds locally. It’ll act as if you’ve installed it from scratch after that, so you’ll have to log in again, establish your preferences, and so on.

There isn’t a similar option on iOS, but you can get the same effect by deleting and reinstalling an app. Select one of your applications in the Settings app, then hit General > iPhone Storage. Then choose Delete App to remove all of the app’s data. Finally, go to the App Store and reinstall the software.

It’s not realistic to do this every day for all of your apps. However, you might wish to do a manual clean-up at regular intervals (say, once a month), before going on vacation, or if you want to start again.

Delete search history

Many mobile applications save data locally as well as in the cloud, allowing you to sync your information across many devices. That implies you’ll have to erase records from various platforms to clear search history on your phone.

Your Google account, for example, will save the history of searches you’ve done on your Android phone. To delete these records, you must first gain access to them over the internet. Go to your Google activity history page in your browser. If the menu isn’t currently visible on the side of the window, go to the top left and select the relevant option (three lines), then Delete activity by. Set the time span and content type to All time and Search, respectively, to delete everything, and then click Delete. This clears your search history across all Google-related products, including Android and the Google search engine.

There isn’t a similar activity sweeper available for iOS. However, by showing your previous searches as suggestions, you can avoid Spotlight from betraying your previous searches. Toggle off the Suggestions in Search option in the Settings app, then hit Siri & Search. When you give your phone to your mother to check anything up, she will no longer be able to view all of your previous search phrases.

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