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A phenomenal Android privacy feature you probably forget to use


It’s amazing how many useful Android features get buried in the operating system and then forgotten over time.

When you stop and think about it, it’s also kind of inevitable: With every passing year, Android grows increasingly robust and complex, as more advanced options make their way into the software. So it’s only logical that certain elements will become out of sight and out of mind and get lost in the shuffle somewhere along the way.

One such item jumped out at me the other day, triggering an immediate “AHAH!” in this rusty ol’ noggin of mine as I remembered its existence and then scolded myself for forgetting to use it all this time. It’s a little somethin’ called Android Guest Mode, and it first showed up way back in the Android 5.0 (Lollipop) era of 2014.

Guest Mode, in case you’ve also forgotten, does exactly what you’d expect: It gives you an on-demand way to switch your phone into a blank-slate-like state, where your personal apps, accounts, and data are all securely tucked away and you instead get an out-of-the-box-like experience, with only the basic preinstalled system apps in place. It’s almost like an incognito mode of sorts, applied to your entire phone: All your regular stuff is gone, and nothing done in that environment has any impact on your standard smartphone setup.

The implications for that are enormous. The biggest realistic threat with smartphone security, after all, isn’t the coming invasion of scary-sounding malware monsters (which, as we’ve discussed to death ’round these parts, are more about sensationalism and security software sales than any pressing, practical danger). Nope — it’s your own negligence and occasional lapse in judgment.

And even if you take every possible step to protect your privacy and strengthen your phone’s security, all it takes is a single, brief pass-off of your device to the wrong person to send all your best-laid efforts swirling down the drain. Whether we’re talking about sensitive company data or your own personal photos, messages, and maybe even browsing history, it doesn’t take long for the wrong set of eyes to see something they shouldn’t — whether it’s deliberate or by mistake.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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