Have your contacts been shared all over the internet? How to protect your contact list

Stop leaks of your Google contacts

The contacts we have on our phone and email account used to be safe. Thanks to data-sharing features, our contact list now bounces from our possession to app-makers to third party data collections, eager to make a buck on selling the emails and phone numbers. What’s even more embarrassing are spam emails your friends now receive that look like they are from you but are not. Is there a way to stop your contact list from spilling over to the internet?

When third party applications ask for access to your contacts, they get names, emails, and phone numbers. It could be your spouse or that guy that hit your car. All that data is shared with the app. And companies might sell that information or could have their own data breach. Unfortunately, there’s no one-stop way to get your contacts back. But you can hold them much closer and safer with these recommendations.

Limit Access To Your Contacts 

Most apps run perfectly fine when you “don’t authorized access” to your contacts. So, stop doing that. Take a little more time to sign up for third party apps next time. Obviously, messaging apps like WhatsApp will need access to your contacts to make sense out of sending and receiving messages. Unless you have a photographic memory, your chats will be separated by random phone numbers. 

protect contacts

If you want to check which apps have access:

On iOS; go to Settings >Privacy >Contacts. Now, turn off access to any apps you don’t want to have the contacts stored on your iPhone. 

On Android; try Settings >Privacy >Permission Manager >Contacts. Remove permissions as needed.

protect contact list

Keep Your Email Safe

You are responsible for keeping your email account safe. Sure, there can be data breaches but make sure you take full advantage of security features with Google. Here’s how to see and limit which third-party apps can see your data:

Go to >Manage your Google account.

On an Android;. This is in your phone’s settings under Google. 

On iOS; Open Gmail and click on the profile photo, >select Manage your Google Account. Go to the Security section and then select >Third Party Apps with Account Access. Remove access to the ones you don’t want. 

You can also do this on your laptop or desktop computer. 

For a quick health check for your email account, I’ve been pwned is still a good place to see if your email or phone number  was in a data breaches. A “breach” is an incident where data has been unintentionally exposed to the public. It’s good to periodically check your email’s exposure. If your email was found in a breach, change your password immediately and consider two-factor verifications.

Blocking Social Media From Google Contacts

If specific apps like social media are showing your contacts publicly then you can opt out for greater privacy. 

In Twitter, for example, tap the three lines at the top left and select >Settings and Privacy > Account > Apps and Sessions. That should bring up apps that are connected to your Twitter account. Tap on them and select >Revoke App Permissions.

On Facebook’s app, tap on the three lines at the bottom right and choose >Settings & Privacy >Settings. Scroll down to >Permissions and select >Apps and Websites. Here you can remove apps that are linked to your Facebook account. You can also turn off third-party app access altogether by hitting the Turn Off button under Apps, Websites and Games.

Remove Contact List from Other Apps

If you don’t want your contacts displayed on certain apps like Venmo, you have to do more than just selecting the private setting. You must make your contact list private too. Below the default settings, select >Friends List and tap >private. That way the list is only visible to you. Make sure you also slide the appearance box to>Off. While you are in there, make your past transactions private as well as your location settings. 

Does Sending a Data-Deletion Request Help?

If you’re a California or Virginia resident, State privacy laws give you the right to ask companies to delete your personal data. In California, large app-makers and Internet companies are required to provide a toll-free number or email address where customers can submit data-deletion requests. Virginia’s law requires companies to include instructions for sending requests in their publicly posted privacy policies. If you live elsewhere, some companies will still respond to data-deletion request.

Be Mindful Of All App Permissions

Nearly all experts agree that double checking which permissions the app asks for will help avoid embarrassment in the future. Ask yourself if it makes sense for an app to ask for certain permissions. An app asking for access to data that isn’t relevant to its function is a danger sign. A home decorating app does not need to have access to your contact list to operate. Nor does a calculator, podcast, or recipe app. ClickAway data recovery technicians are adamant about this.

It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on your phone’s performance after you download a new app. If it starts to get sluggish or the battery life is impacted, that’s a good indication a malicious app could be constantly running in the background.