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Does your phone keypad compromise your privacy?



Does your phone keypad compromise your privacy?


You wouldn’t think that a smartphone keyboard could affect your digital privacy. But it is in fact the case. Powered by machine learning, many smartphone keyboard apps send samples of your typing to the company that owns it. Here, to help you stay in control of the data you transmit, we’ve created this guide detailing the most common smartphone keyboard data retention policies.

Modern smartphone keyboards are really smart, though some of us miss the days of physical keyboards or even T9 texting on a phone keypad. However, many of them send samples of what you type (and speak, in the case of voice recognition “keyboards”) to their developer for accuracy, auto-correction options, and predictive words or word suggestions. . -termination.

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That’s fine if you don’t mind contributing to Google or Microsoft’s pool of data (and possibly having snippets of your posts seen or heard by an outside contractor working on behalf of those companies).

But some phone keyboards like SwiftKey have already leaked data including email addresses to other users in autocomplete suggestions, while the Kika Keyboard app has been caught engaging in ad fraud. The most egregious leaks and privacy breaches are addressed when exposed, but that’s hardly a testament to the reliability of big tech companies when it comes to your private communication.

And if privacy is a matter of personal security, a leaky keyboard can be exploited by bad actors and hostile governments to render even the most secure messaging apps useless encryption.

Open source keyboards don’t have such unexpected surprises, as their code is available for public review and audit by any interested party, but they don’t have the same functionality as their more intrusive counterparts.

Whether you prefer privacy or appreciate the extra quality-of-life features that come with more intrusive apps that use human collaborators and machine learning to improve their predictive text suggestions, it’s important to be aware of the app’s reputation and security habits. keyboard you are using. and the company behind.

iOS keyboard

This is a closed source keyboard. The default iOS keyboard shares information with Apple if Share iPhone Analytics is enabled. When data collection is enabled, it uses “differential privacy” (PDF link) to add “statistical noise” to the data it returns for analysis, in order to make it harder for you to be identified from the chunks that come back to Apple for analysis. .

Gboard (Android default keyboard)

It is closed source and available for Android and iOS. The standard Google keyboard allows you to tap, swipe between letters, and type with your voice. It’s great to use, but returns snippets of your post to Google by default.

You can turn this off by going to the virtual keyboard’s advanced settings via the Languages ​​& input menu on Android, and disabling advanced usage statistics, customizations, and the “Improve speech and typing for everyone” option. iOS users should go to their keyboard settings and disable the “Allow full access” option.

Disable these options to make Gboard more privacy friendly on Android

microsoft hotkey

A very popular closed source keyboard. It’s a sliding or “sliding” keyboard for Android and iOS, Microsoft bought SwiftKey in 2016. It collects data to improve its predictive features by default. Unlike many of its more popular competitors, SwiftKey offers a comprehensive guide to disabling and managing data collection and word prediction.

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grammar keyboard

It is also a closed source product. The beauty of Grammarly is that it performs in-depth analysis of user input to help you make your use of language more correct and elegant. Grammarly is very clear about the data it collects on iOS and in general, but the only way to prevent it from collecting sample data of your writing is to turn it off.

open board

OpenBoard, a completely open source keyboard, is only available for Android, but it’s my go-to option for typing on the phone. It doesn’t collect or share your data with anyone and it supports all the languages ​​I use, but you’re limited to touching the screen as there’s no swipe-to-type feature.

You can get it from both the Google Play Store and the F-Droid open source repository, so devices running ungoogled operating systems descending from Android can also use it.

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