We are going to explain how to configure your OnePlus mobile to try to respect your privacy as much as possible , or at least to do so as far as possible. And you must remember that the configuration of the mobile can help, but it cannot prevent you from exposing it later in some applications or when you browse the Internet.
If you have another mobile, we have already made articles like this for you both for basic Android and for other layers of customization such as MIUI , One UI or EMUI . Now it is the turn of OnePlus, which has the options arranged in a different way, so there are some changes that you should take into account.
But before we start, I want to remind you of something we said at the beginning. And it is that we start from the basis that total privacy does not exist in a smartphone, since the fact that it is a connected device already implies that you will have to make certain sacrifices. Therefore, our idea in articles of this type is to give you a series of tools and tips, guiding you through the settings, and then you are the one who decides what measures to take.
And as we always say in Engadget Basics, in the event that you consider that we have overlooked any configuration that you think should be here, we invite you to share it with everyone in the comments section. Thus, users who come in search of a guide for beginners and not-so beginners will be able to benefit from the extensive knowledge of our xatakeros community.
Configure your mobile lock
The first line of defense to protect your mobile against people who may have physical access to it is to lock your screen, and that is why we are going to start by explaining how to configure it. You can lock your mobile with a password, pattern or PIN code, and also with biometric systems such as your face or your fingerprint. To do this, you have to enter the settings, and once inside click on the Security and screen lock section , which will appear with a lock icon.
When you press, you will enter a screen where you can manage everything related to the security of your mobile, such as the options to find it, or security updates. Here, in the Security section of the device, you have to click on the Lock screen option to go on to configure it.
You will enter a page where you have several different methods. In my case, I have the Swipe , which is like having nothing, or the Pattern, PIN and Password. You have to click on the blocking method you want to use to go on to configure it. In case you have any doubts, here is the description of each one:
- None : The most insecure option of all, the screen doesn’t even lock.
- Slide : Remove all protections and you will only have to slide the screen to unlock it. There is no type of security, so it is not recommended.
- Pattern : You configure a pattern that you must write by joining 9 points. It is a type of medium security, and it is recommended that you do not use your initial but a more different pattern.
- PIN : You establish a 4-number password, something that can be quite high protection as long as you do not use dates that are important to you and easily guessed.
- Password : You can set a password with many letters or numbers. Here, it is important that you read our guide on how to create strong passwords to maximize privacy.
Back in the Security menu and screen lock , in the Security section of the device you have three additional methods to unlock the mobile by skipping the main one that you have configured. These are biometric systems that can be much more comfortable to avoid having to remember passwords or patterns. Are these:
- Face unlock : If you activate it, you will configure the face unlock of the mobile.
- Fingerprint : The second biometric unlocking option, using your fingerprint. You can add several different fingerprints to make it easier for you.
- Smart Lock : It is the system with which you can link a secondary device to the mobile, such as a smart watch. So, when you carry this unlocked device on you, the mobile will also remain unlocked so you do not need a PIN, password, pattern or fingerprint.
If you have chosen a type of biometric unlocking, you will see that it is a complementary system that needs to have a main one configured, such as a pattern, PIN or password. Within this system, you can configure your facial recognition or manage your fingerprints to be able to add others or delete some that you have configured.
Use the Lockbox
The File Manager application has a password-protected folder, which is called Lockbox. This application is the folder manager that comes pre-installed on OnePlus phones, and the first time you enter Lockbox you will have to establish a 6-digit password or PIN, which will be the one you need to use each time you want to enter.
The idea is to have a safe environment in which to store your most sensitive files , and that if someone takes or steals your mobile, these files have an extra layer of protection in addition to unlocking your mobile. Within this Lockbox you will be able to create all the folders you want and put files according to your need. You will not even be able to take screenshots while you are inside the Lockbox.
Send less data to Google
In the Privacy section of your OnePlus settings, if you display the Advanced menu , you will see a category of Google-related services . This category serves to limit part of the data that Google collects about you to improve the services it offers you on your Android mobile. These are the elements that you will be able to deactivate:
- Personalized service : If you deactivate it, you will stop sending data about the apps you use, the users on your mobile or the content you consume, and you will no longer have personalized content depending on them.
- Google autocomplete : Addresses, payment methods or passwords will no longer be saved to autocomplete when Google detects that they are requested.
- Google location history : You can disable Google to collect the sites where you are with the mobile, and delete the location history. This will make apps like Google Maps stop knowing where you have moved, which can be good or bad depending on how you use it.
- Activity controls : You can disable Google knowing which websites you browse and how you do it to try to offer you faster searches or better recommendations. Come on, Google will have it more difficult to know what you do on the Internet.
- Ads : You can disable ad personalization on this device depending on the personal tastes that Google has collected about you, or reset this advertising ID so that it will forget about your likes.
- Use and diagnosis : You will stop sending error diagnoses to Google, and the information about what you do on the mobile and within the applications.
Manage application permissions
Now it’s time to move on to one of the most important points in this article, for the privacy and security of your data. It is about protecting your privacy of the applications that you have installed by reviewing the permissions that you give to each of them . All apps usually need certain permissions to function correctly, so deactivating them may fail or ask you again later, but it is important to review this so that no app asks for more than it needs. To configure this, enter Settings click on the Privacy section to which we have gone in the previous points.
Inside, click on the Permissions manager option , and you will get to the screen where you can control the types of permissions that apps can access. This will be shown as a list with all the permissions that the mobile can give , and by clicking on each of them you will see the applications that have it. This is the list of all the permissions that you can configure, explained so that you understand them.
- Physical activity : The mobile is collecting your physical activity, and this data can be shared with Google’s own applications such as Google Fit or other third-party apps that help you in your workouts.
- Files and multimedia content : Permission to access the hard drive of your mobile to be able to see what files you have in certain folders and use them. For example, to get the photos you have.
- Calendar : Permission to access the calendar of your mobile account, and thus be able to see all the appointments you have and to add new ones to it.
- Camera : Permission to use the camera of your mobile, for example when you are going to take a photo using the internal menu of a messaging application or a social network.
- Contacts : Permission to see the contacts you have in your agenda and to interact with their data. For example, when in a social network you give the option to search for people you already know, it will use the data of your contacts as their mobile to know if they are in it.
- Microphone : Permission to use the microphone of your mobile to make recordings. For example, so that the assistant listens when you speak to him or you can send voice messages in a messaging application.
- Call log : Permission to enter your phone application and see the calls you have made.
- Body sensors : Permission to access the biometric sensors of your mobile, such as the fingerprint scanner in the event that an application asks you to use it to verify your identity.
- SMS : Permission to read the SMS that reach your mobile. For example, when an application sends you a verification code, it may ask you for this permission so that you don’t have to write it by hand and it automatically detects it.
- Phone : Permission to access the phone application and make calls for you.
- Location : Permission to access your mobile’s GPS data. Relax, because now we go into more detail in this permission.
- Additional permissions : Another series of permissions that your mobile manufacturer may have entered or that are subject to other less common tools, such as information about your car if you have Android on one.
When you click on any of these permissions, you will see a list of all the apps that can access your data . Generally, the applications on this list will be divided into three groups: those that have permission to access the data, those that can only access it while in use, and those that have permission denied. Here, all you have to do is click on the app you want to be able to edit the permission.
When you click on one of the applications on the list, you will enter the screen where you can manage its permissions. As you have done it from a specific type of data permission, on this screen you will be told if the application has access to the data. You can have up to four options , being able to allow access when the app is being actively used, always allow, always ask or deny it. Depending on the type of permit, there may be fewer options.
The first time you open an application, it will ask you to give it the permissions it needs to function, and it will be up to you to give them all or just some. But if you change your mind, with the steps we have given you, you will be able to manage the permissions of each app again . In the event that you deny a permission that the app needs, when you go to use the function for which they are needed, it will ask you again.
Check Google services
Android is an operating system created by Google, and it has several of its services embedded within. However, you will also be able to review and configure access to all your data by these Google services . To do this, enter the Settings application , and click on the Google section that you will have a little below.
You will enter a screen where you will see all the Google services that can be used on Android, and therefore, that are also on your OnePlus mobile. Almost all of them will help you improve your privacy, although it will be based on limiting the use that Google can make of your data and, therefore, limiting various mobile functions. Here is the description of each one of them.
- Notifications of exposure to COVID-19 : This section is not a specific application or service, but a base from which to control applications such as Radar COVID and the like that have been developed and implemented in other countries based on the tracking API created by Google and Apple. It allows you to see which applications of this type you have and eliminate their access to this API.
- Ads : You can disable ad personalization, telling apps not to use your ad ID to create profiles and show ads accordingly.
- Autocomplete : By default it is deactivated, but if you activate it, when you receive an SMS with a verification code, it will autocomplete in the application you are using and for which you have requested it.
- Chromebook : It allows you to manage the link between your mobile and a Chromecast. If you link them, you can send content from one device to another, and here you can control that link.
- Share on device : A list of applications that share data from your device appears so that the rest of Google apps can use them to personalize your experience with suggestions and recommendations. You can deactivate the apps whose data you do not want shared.
- Device connections : You can activate and configure your mobile connections with Android Auto, control the multimedia content of the sending devices with a notification, or with other devices.
- Configure and restore : These are controls that serve you to configure nearby devices, your contact profile, or restore the contacts of any of your linked accounts.
- Parental controls : Set up Android parental controls using Family Link .
- Backup : It allows you to make a backup copy of your device, and data such as applications, call history, contacts, settings, photos or even SMS to be able to restore it after resetting the mobile or switching to other.
- Data and messages : You have options to manage the files of apps compatible with Drive or the phone number of your device.
- Security : You have the options to find your device or analyze installed applications with Google Play Protect.
- Account services : It allows you to configure other services such as the applications connected to your account, Google Fit, Google Pay, Google Play Instant, the assistant, the synchronization of contacts or the location.
Although most of the options on the list do not have a great relevance in privacy, there are some that do. For example, you can click on the Ads option . In it you can reset your advertising ID to reset the data that is collected about you to show you advertising that is relevant to you. And if you do not want the data from your advertising profile to be used, activate the option to Disable Ads Personalization that you will see in this window.
You can also go to the Share on device option , where you can deactivate the applications that can send your data to other Google services. With this, you can customize the suggestions and recommendations, but if you do not want Google to harvest more data about you yet, then you will not have any problem disconnecting them.
Finally, you can also enter the Connected Applications option within Account Services . You will see a list with all the applications linked to your Google account, and if you click on each one of them, you will be told the data of your account that you can access. Here, what you have to do is disconnect the applications that you do not want to access your data to protect your privacy.
Check Google Assistant and Search
Within the Google section in the settings, within the Account Services option that we mentioned before there is another section that deserves to be treated in depth. It is the Search Engine, the Assistant and Voice , which when you click on it takes you to a page where you can adjust the options for voice commands and the Google assistant. These are the available options.
- If you click on the General option , you can deactivate various options such as saving the recent pages you visit, deactivating personal results related to other third-party apps, or auto-complete with search trends, which collects the searches you usually do.
- If you click on the Notifications option , you will be able to deactivate all the notifications that Google sends you. From proactive ones to sports reminders or those related to the weather or frequent trips.
- If you click on Interests , you will be able to see and manage everything that Google has considered to be topics that interest you according to how you have been browsing the Internet and accessing content.
- If you click on the Voice option , you will be able to manage your languages, apply filters for bad words or deactivate the ability to record audio through Bluetooth devices. You can also deactivate the detection of the OK Google command with which to invoke the assistant, so that the mobile is not listening until it hears you say it.
- If you click on the Language and region option , you will be able to configure the language of your searches and the region. By default Google will detect your region when you ask for things with voice commands, but you can change this to put any other.
In the list above we have set aside the Google Assistant option , as it needs a little more extensive explanation. When you click on this option, you will go to a menu where you can configure everything related to the assistant, from the way you want it to call you and voice recognition to shopping lists or time units. Here, it is important that you click on Your data in the wizard .
You will enter a page where you can see the data that the assistant has been collecting about you, and that is in Google assigned to you. On this screen, click on the Assistant Activity button in the Recent Activity field .
You will go to a page where you can see that Google has this configured by default to collect everything you do with the assistant until you delete it manually. At the bottom, you have the list of activities that you can delete. However, if you click on Change this setting, you can make the activity delete automatically when 3 or 18 months have passed, a good option to take care of your privacy.
Decide on the option to find device
All Android devices have an option that allows you to find your mobile from the web in case you have lost it. This is very useful, but to make it possible, the mobile is constantly sending its location to Google. Therefore, although it can help you save your mobile, it may also not convince you at all due to privacy issues. To deactivate it, go to Settings , and click on the Security and screen lock section .
When you enter this section, you have to look at the Security Status section , which is the first one that appears. In it, click on the Find my device option to enter to configure it. You will go to a screen where you simply have to deactivate the option with its tab.
Disable sending samples in Google Play
Google Play, the Android app store, has a security system to which you send continuous samples of all the apps you have to search for threats. If you don’t want to send this data to Google, you can deactivate the option in exchange for your mobile being a little more insecure. To do so, enter the Play Store, click on the menu button with your profile photo, and in the options enter Play Protect .
You will access the Android Play Store security system screen, where you can analyze the apps by hand. Here, click on the configuration button at the top right, the one with the cogwheel icon, to enter its settings.
You will go to a screen with two options. To disable sample submission, ** disable the Scan apps with Play Protect option . And then, if you want you can also deactivate the sending of unknown applications so that Google also does not know what you install beyond its official store, deactivate the option to Improve the detection of harmful applications . Here, remember that by doing this you will be removing a valuable layer of security from your mobile.
Consider using DNS or VPN
Beyond the internal privacy options related to what happens inside the mobile, you will also be able to maximize your privacy when connecting to the Internet from the mobile. For this you will have two different options, to configure a VPN and to use DNS blocking . VPN networks help hide your real IP address when you connect to the Internet, and can even pretend that you are connected from another site.
Meanwhile, using a DNS different from that of your operator helps to maximize privacy, increase security against attacks or avoid blocking by your operator may be of interest to you. In Engadget Basics we have already proposed a list with the best DNS of 2019 so that you can choose the one that convinces you the most.
To use either of these two options, you have to enter your mobile settings, and inside, enter the WiFi and mobile networks section . Inside here you will see the VPN and private DNS options , and by clicking on either of the two you will be able to configure them by following the steps that are proposed to you.
For specific moments in which you do not want anything to be known about you or for your mobile to send any signal, you also have the option to activate airplane mode . This mode will make you do not have Internet, but it can help you in specific moments, although remember that when you reactivate it it is possible that your mobile will tell Google what you have been doing while you had it with this mode. You will have it on the Android quick actions screen, or in the advanced Network and Internet next to the VPN and DNS.
Beyond Android, things to keep in mind
With all these steps and tips that we have given you, you will be able to make your mobile collect and disseminate as little information as possible about you. But this will not make your mobile completely private, since it will not prevent other services or applications from collecting and disseminating this data or many others. For example, when you browse the Internet or when using a specific application.
For example, when browsing it is important to have a browser that takes care of your privacy. You can try to configure Chrome to try to respect your privacy more, or try an alternative browser . Some browsers created to protect your privacy are especially interesting , such as alternatives such as Firefox Focus .
Another aspect to take into account is the search engines you use on the Internet . Google sends your search data to Google, Bing sends it to Microsoft, and so most of the main ones can compromise your privacy. However, there are some alternatives that do try to take maximum care of not being tracked on the Internet.
In addition, it is also important to be careful with the applications that you install . Not only for the permissions that can be given to them, we have already explained how to manage them, but because some could do more than what they tell you and include some type of system that tracks what you do. Take a good look at the description of each one and the comments it may have in the application store, and if you see something suspicious, look for alternatives.
But there are always some applications that you cannot do without, and in those cases it is best to review the individual privacy settings of each app . For example, we have already explained how to prevent Google Maps from saving a history with all your locations , how to improve your privacy on YouTube , or how to make your Instagram account more private .
Finally, the messaging applications. Here privacy is more optional, although we have also told you how to hide as much as possible on WhatsApp and how to do it on Telegram as well . With the rest of the applications, you will have to review their respective settings.