You’re sitting at a conference table, a work meeting fully underway. Your phone is next to your notebook, but never fear, you’ve turned off the ringer for this important company meeting. Even if a text comes in, it won’t disturb anyone.
Until your spouse sends a sweet text message: Love you, can’t wait til our special alone time tonight!
If you’re one of the many phone users who doesn’t bother to turn off app notifications in their lock screen, the person sitting next to you may very well have seen that message. The meeting is about to take a very interesting turn if your tablemate happens to burst out laughing.
This might seem like a fairly harmless and far-fetched scenario, but it’s just one way to illustrate what kinds of information will appear on your “lock” screen if you don’t turn off the setting. Game notifications like “You have three more lives in FarmyTown!” may appear, letting everyone know you play games on your company-issued phone, and calendar reminders may pop up at inopportune times that remind you—and anyone sitting around you—that you have a colonoscopy scheduled for the next day.
But the real problem from a privacy standpoint is if someone gets their hands on your mobile device, then uses those notifications to work their way around your passcode. Text messages from friends and family members, Facebook notifications from groups you’ve joined, reminders from doctors’ offices or pharmacies may all pop up even when your phone is locked. By gleaning enough of these notifications, a thief can start to piece together your information.
Fortunately, depending on your smartphone’s manufacturer, you can disable these notifications so they won’t appear on the lock screen. Don’t worry, they’ll still appear whenever you unlock your phone, so your messaging icon will still display a new number, your calendar icon will still indicate an event, and more. You just won’t be broadcasting your personal life to the world when your phone is locked.
If you have an iPhone, click on the Settings icon and scroll down to Notifications. In that section, you’ll see all of your apps listed, and each one should tell you whether it is turned off or what you’ve allowed it to do. You can customize your notifications for all of your apps so that the notifications are either turned off, blocked from the lock screen, or even blocked from the icon itself.
If your phone is powered by Android, the ability to turn off notifications on your lock screen is only enabled if your phone is passcode protected. If it’s not protected, then who cares who can see notification? All they have to do is tap the screen to wake it up.
To set your passcode—which is a good idea anyway—go to the Settings menu either by swiping down on your home screen or opening it in the master list of apps, then select Security, and then Screen Lock. When you set up your passcode, it will offer you the option to limit your lock screen notifications. If you already have a passcode but didn’t enable this feature at the time you set it up, simply go to Settings and then click on Sound & Notification to make this change.
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