Your contact list is overflowing on the Internet, here’s how to stop it

When apps request access to your address book and you consent to it, data sharing doesn’t always end there.

Names and contact information that used to stay safe in analog address books are now floating in the data economy, bouncing from smartphones to app makers to third-party data collectors.

That means the apps get the names and phone numbers of everyone in your contacts – your best friend overseas who might have referred you at a red light. And companies could sell that information as well.

There’s no one-size-fits-all option to turn off contact sharing, and contacts you’ve already posted are hard to retrieve. But if you want to start holding your address book closer to the vest, here’s how.

– Limit the applications that access your address book.

On iOS, go to Settings -> Privacy -> Contacts and turn the slider to the off position on any apps you don’t want to access contacts stored on your iPhone.

On a newer Android phone, like the Samsung Galaxy S21, try Settings -> Privacy -> Authorization Manager -> Contacts. See which apps are in the Allowed list and remove permissions if necessary.

– Don’t rush through app installs and registrations.

When this pop-up appears indicating that the app wants to access your contacts, be ready to tap “Do not allow”. In most cases, it won’t affect the main features you use on the app. For some apps like messaging tools, it might make sense that they need your contacts to send and receive messages.

– Change which third-party apps can see your Google and Microsoft account data.

First, go to Manage your Google Account. On an Android, this can be found in your phone’s Settings app under Google. On an iPhone, access it by opening any Google app, like Gmail, and tapping your profile picture or icon in the top right corner.

Scroll down to the Security section, then to Third-party apps with account access. (This will only show if apps are accessing your account.) Under each app, there’s a list of the information you’ve shared with it. Tap an app and tap Remove access.

For Microsoft, sign in to account.microsoft.com and click on the privacy tab at the top of the page. Under More privacy settings, find Apps & services and go to View app access details. If you want to remove access for an app, select Edit and then Remove these permissions.

– Prevent apps from accessing your information on social networks.

Twitter: Open the Twitter phone app and tap the three lines at the top left. Choose Settings & Privacy -> Account -> Apps & Sessions. This should bring up your connected apps. If you see some that you don’t want to share your Twitter connections with, tap them and select Revoke app permissions.

Facebook: on the Facebook app, tap the three lines at the bottom right and choose Settings & Privacy -> Settings -> Apps & Websites. You can also completely disable access to third-party apps by tapping the Disable button under Apps, websites & games.

– Adjust the settings of each application.

If a particular app, like Venmo, is showing your contacts publicly and you want it to stop, go to the app’s settings and look for a “private” option. On the Venmo app, that means tapping the three lines in the top right corner and scrolling to Settings. Under Default privacy settings, choose private. Then go to the friends list and set it to private as well. You can even change all of your past payments to private under Past Transactions.

– Buy a burner phone.

Radical? May be. But if you really don’t want to share your address book with apps – and who they sell this information to – buy a separate phone to store your contacts.

– Send a data deletion request.

If you live in California or Virginia, your state’s 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 law requires companies to include instructions for sending requests in their published privacy policies.

If you live elsewhere, some companies will still honor your request to delete data because it’s difficult to confirm the origin of each request – let alone poor customer service to people in states without proactive privacy laws.

– Configure another phone number with Google Voice.

This app acts like a phone in your phone, with a separate number. If you give the Voice number to acquaintances, your real phone number will not end up in app databases if those people share their contacts with apps.

Author Info: Tatum Hunter writes about personal technology and its impact on our wallets, brain, and environment. She joined the Washington Post after Built In, where she covered software and tech workforce.

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