Safer Internet: Manage Mobile Privacy


  • score location+ Mobile devices are more likely to be lost or stolen.
  • + You're more vulnerable while travelling
  • + Your information/devices may be more vulnerable, especially at borders
  • + Mobile devices may not have as strong a passcode as desktop devices.


  • multiple personalities disorderConsider not only laptops, tablets, phones, but also other smart mobile devices, e.g., camera, watch, wearables.
  • Strong passwords are especially recommended for your mobile device -- in case it gets lost or stolen -- and for any important remote accounts that you need to access while traveling.
  • [2] If using 2-factor authentication (or 2-step verification), check that phone/token can be used at destination, or bring backup codes -- or disable 2FA until back home.
  • [2] Proximity-based logins are convenient for unlocking your computer when you're nearby -- in lieu of entering your password manually; however, if you lose the companion device, someone else might be able to login.
  • macOS & iPhone apps: Knock, MacID, Sesame


  • ipad camera cablesBackup data before leaving home
  • During trip, backup new photos / info
    • from camera / phone / tablet
    • to cloud / other device
  • Depending on network speed / cost / security, you may want to disable automatic cloud backup / sync.
  • macOS: System Preferences > iCloud
  • iOS: Settings > iCloud > Photos etc.
  • Bring copies of travel info as .pdfs, e.g., scanned passports / driver's license, air/hotel confirmations, itinerary
  • Tag portable items with address labels, add phone no. and/or email contact
  • Bring any needed cables, chargers, adapters, plugs, spare batteries, battery pack


  • passwordsRemove or encrypt sensitive info, esp. passwords; use a password manager
  • Devices are increasingly subject to searches in luggage and at borders
  • [Refs:Border]: "Defending Privacy at the U.S. Border: EFF Guide for Travelers Carrying Digital Devices"
  • [3] Hidely (iOS, Android) encrypts photos you take with the app, stores them only on your device, and can share them securely via a private link.


  • local hotspotsAccess WiFi: securely -- WPA2 recommended
  • Check with carrier about voice / data plans if leaving US
  • Avoid excessive charges by using "airplane mode" or disabling cell data on an app-by-app basis
  • [Refs:Cell]: "How to Pick a Cellphone Plan for Traveling Abroad"
  • iOS: Settings > Cellular Data > Use Cellular Data For:
  • [Refs:iOS]: "7 ways to curb your iPhone's cellular data use"
  • desert[2] If you need to access email/sites insecurely (without SSL, HTTPS:), consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) if network is
    • WiFi: no password
    • WiFi: weak password (WEP)
    • WiFi: widely-known password (e.g., coffee shop)
    • cell data connection generally, or using a SIM card whose encryption might be compromised
    • ethernet connection -- if hotel cabling and switches have been compromised
  • [2] Opt out of your cell carrier's "supercookies"
  • "Unlike regular cookies, supercookies can't be blocked or deleted, because the carrier inserts these unique identifiers between the time a request for a page leaves your device and the time it's sent to the server"


  • landlineEnable/test tracking service, e.g., Find My Mac/iPad/iPhone, in case device lost/stolen
  • [Refs:macOS]: "Man uses his stolen MacBook to find his stolen MacBook"
  • Be aware that your approximation physical location can be determined from your cell network, from geotagging in photos, or by apps that ask to track you -- or even from device MAC address when using Wi-Fi (though iOS 8 randomizes MAC address regularly)
  • dorothy toto kansasiOS: Settings > Privacy > Location Services
  • [2] iOS: Settings > Bluetooth: off -- if you want to disable iBeacon
  • [Refs]: "4th Amendment Lives: Court Tells US Government Get A Warrant If It Wants Mobile Phone Location Info"

When Traveling Without Your Device



Border Crossings

Cell Networks