Gemma Styles | Contributing writer | Saturday, 17 October 2015

Gemma Styles: My Phone Holds All My Secrets - Why Would I Want Anyone Else Reading It?

Gemma Styles: My Phone Holds All My Secrets - Why Would I Want Anyone Else Reading It?

The Debrief: Ever caught yourself accidentally reading someone else's phone over their shoulder on the tube? Now imagine someone was doing that to you when you, and reading the most NSFW text you've ever sent...

Photographed by Matilda Hill-Jenkins

So I was on the tube the other day; it was hot and I was bored – STILL haven’t remembered to set myself up for underground wifi – and I suddenly clocked that I was reading an article on the phone of the person next to me. Just sort of tilting my head over like the modern equivalent of reading someone else’s newspaper on the train. Oops. (Sorry person.) Now in my defence, the guy did have an iPhone 6+, which is basically like a television, and I wasn’t doing it consciously but still I felt like a creep and it made me wonder how many people had been sneaking glances at my screen on the side… 

If you’ve ever hurriedly flipped your screen face down as messages have come in, you’ll know the stress of the covert conversation: to help you prevent absentminded strangers on public transport (or nosey housemates on the sofa) getting all up in your business, I’ve come up with some top tips for provision of your privacy.

Preview settings at the enemy 

Now even if you’re thinking about upping the privacy factor on your phone, you probably don’t want to actually act like a madman with a secret, obsessively carrying your phone with you to the loo – inevitably there are times you’ll end up leaving it on your desk, the coffee table, plugged in to charge where people are likely to catch a glimpse. One of the most basic ways to keep your texts between you and the sender is to switch off your message previews. For iPhone this is pretty simple: go to Settings > Notifications and then scroll down to find Messages. In these options, just switch off the toggle for ‘Show Previews’ and you’re all done. For other messages such as Whatsapp, you find this option in the Notifications section of your settings in the app – and for people who don’t have iPhones…. Google it. Or I’ll be rambling on all morning.

Minimise your font 

As a rule of thumb, the bigger the text on your screen, the easier it is for someone pretending they just happen to be looking off into the distance to be side-eye reading your emails. Let’s also assume that as a hot young thing with texts and emails worth snooping on, you’ve got reasonable eyesight (slash contact lenses) – take advantage of that fact and shrink down your font size as much as you can. One advantage of spending my fun uni years short sighted (before letting someone sandpaper my corneas off and shoot lasers into my eyes) was that I was always able to read teeeeeny tiny text; aside from boring things like terms and conditions, this comes in handy when you’re trying to keep your digital correspondence on the down low. 

Again for iPhone, to adjust this setting, head to Settings > Display & Brightness then hit Text Size to find the best setting for you. 

Invest in a James Bond screen 

I’d say most people end up investing in a screen protector – once you have a near miss with dropping it (or pay out for a hole in the wall shop on the high street to replace your cracked screen) it suddenly seems like a very good idea. If you’re concerned about the Nosy Nellie reading over your shoulder, consider opting for the added feature of a ‘privacy screen protector’; when looking head on at your screen, as you would holding it, you see everything clearly, however from a side angle i.e. sat next to you on the bus, the screen appears black. Hasta la vista sneaky peekers. Bonus: makes you feel mysterious and a bit like a spy. 

So there we are. Maybe you’ve got nothing to hide. Maybe you’re completely angelic and organising a surprise present for someone. Maybe you’re not angelic at all and like to exchange very NSFW texts while sat at your desk trying to maintain a poker face. None of my business, but hopefully some of the above will help you keep a lid on your plans for sneaking around this weekend. Enjoy…

Follow Gemma on Twitter @GemmaAnneStyles

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Photographed by Matilda Hill-Jenkins

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