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How to Use Apple Pay or Google Pay Instead of Plastic Cards

How to Use Apple Pay or Google Pay Instead of Plastic Cards

The proliferation of contactless payment options shifts how businesses interact with customers at the moment of purchase, from international retailers to local pop-up shops. But there’s no need to fret just yet if you enjoy buying stuff with cold, hard cash. Plastic cards are first on the chopping block.

“I’d suggest that the time is ripe to plan for plastic (and metal) cards to be sent to Shady Pines Retirement Home for the Tragically Overstayed Welcome,” wrote Nick Holland, global head of insights and networks at Money 20/20. During the group’s 2022 conference in October in Las Vegas, financial technology companies touting efficiency and seamless experiences were front and center, as plastic cards faded into the background.

Anyone who is on the fence about using their smartphone for contactless payments should check out Whitson Gordon’s case for adopting the technology. Convinced and need guidance setting up Apple Pay or Google Wallet? Apple and Google offer step-by-step instructions to guide you through that initial setup. After you link your cards to the mobile device and practice the necessary steps to complete purchases, here are a few tips to help you get the most out of smartphone wallets.

Don’t Forget About Phone-to-Phone Payments

You may be comfortable tapping your phone against a checkout terminal, but it might feel like a surprise the first time a business asks you to tap your phone to their phone. Smaller merchants, delivery companies, and take-out restaurants may continue to forgo traditional card terminals altogether as companies like Mastercard and Visa introduce features that use near-field communication chip technology to enable phone-to-phone payments. Similar to the lightning port on the iPhone, the era of credit card readers plugged into smartphones is likely to come to an end.

Make Use of Virtual Card Numbers

Always look to see what your options are when it comes to virtual card numbers. For example, if you choose to get an Apple Card on your iPhone and the number leaks, it can be changed with just a couple of taps. Open your Wallet and tap on the Apple Card. In the top-right corner, select the card icon and choose the button that reads Request New Card Number. Virtual card numbers are not only useful for smartphone payments. Google added the option to use the security feature easily in your web browser.

Add More Than Just Payment Methods

Your debit card and credit card are likely the very first items you connect to your digital wallet. It doesn’t need to stop there! From boarding passes to proof-of-vaccine cards, digital wallets can hold so much more than just payments. It’s even possible to connect your health insurance card for easy access. (The main aspect of a physical wallet that a digital one can never replicate is providing me with a secret receptacle to hoard ancient receipts and scraps of paper.)

Keep a Little Cash on Hand

Even if you choose to use your mobile device instead of a plastic card for most in-person transactions, it still makes sense to keep a few dollar bills in your wallet. Just in case. Your smartphone might get wet and stop functioning. Also, not every store is set up to accept Apple Pay or Google Wallet. Some retailers even offer a small discount to customers who pay with cash.

How to Safely Lend Someone Else Your Phone

How to Safely Lend Someone Else Your Phone

From the nephew who wants to play games for a few minutes, to the friend who wants to see your vacation snaps, to the stranger who needs to make a call, there are going to be people who want to borrow your phone.

That’s quite a privacy and security risk if you think about everything that your phone gives you access to: social media profiles, banking details, instant messenger conversations, photos and videos that you’d rather the world didn’t see, and so on.

However, there are ways to hand over your phone to someone else without having to worry about what they might get up to on it. You just need to make sure that you’ve taken a few precautions before the exchange takes place.

iPhone

screenshot

Guided Access is built into iOS.

Apple via David Nield

(Apple via David Nield)

The feature you need to know about on the iPhone is called Guided Access, and you can enable it by opening up iOS Settings and choosing Accessibility and Guided Access. Turn the Guided Access toggle switch on and the feature is ready to go—just make sure you use Passcode Settings to set a passcode to protect Guided Access mode.

To actually turn Guided Access on, you need to triple-tap the home button if your iPhone has one, or the side button if it doesn’t. You can then tap Options to configure how Guided Access is going to work: You’re able to restrict access to the volume buttons, for example, and the software keyboard. You can even turn off touchscreen functionality and put a limit on Guided Access mode. Tapping Start launches Guided Access.

Whoever is using the iPhone is then locked into the current app, so you need to open up the app in question—the Phone app, a particular game, or whatever it is—before you triple-tap the button on your device to launch Guided Access. You get out of Guided Access with another triple-tap of the same button, at which point you’ll need the passcode that you set at the start.

The idea is that without the passcode, the person using your iPhone can’t get out of the app you’ve put them in—there’s no way to switch apps, open up the Control Center, or even turn the phone off. It’s worth being aware of the app that they’re in, though, and what they can do inside that app: If you’re showing someone your photos, they’ll be able to access all of them.

How to Protect Your Digital Privacy if Roe v. Wade Falls

How to Protect Your Digital Privacy if Roe v. Wade Falls

While it may be increasingly important for people in the US to consciously consider what they’re posting when it comes to their own abortions or those of loved ones, Hayley McMahon, an independent public health researcher who studies abortion access, notes that the goal of this advice is not to chill speech, but to keep people safe.

“I don’t ever want to tell someone they shouldn’t talk about their experience or they can’t talk about their experience, because there’s tons of power in abortion storytelling,” McMahon says. “But I think people need to have all of the information and an understanding of the risks, and then they can make choices about what to say where.”

Know Your Rights

Researchers emphasize, too, that people in the US should know and feel secure in their rights when it comes to dealing with law enforcement. If you are being questioned by police, you can simply say, “I am exercising my right to remain silent and I want to speak with an attorney.” Resources like the Repro Legal Helpline can help connect you with specific legal advice. Additionally, lock your devices with a strong, unique PIN number, keep them locked, and simply ask for an attorney if a cop attempts to compel you to unlock your device. 

McMahon also adds that in the very rare case of a complication with a medication abortion, people should not feel pressure to disclose the treatment to clinicians in the emergency room or other health care settings. Simply saying, “I think I’m having a miscarriage” will suffice.

“People need to understand that it’s impossible to tell the difference between spontaneous miscarriage and medication abortion,” McMahon says. “Medication abortion simply induces a miscarriage. And of course, we typically want everyone to disclose their health history to their clinician, but in this case, the treatment is the same, so nothing is lost by not disclosing that information.”

Deluge of Data

Using apps, browsing the web, and using search engines are all activities that can expose personal details, creating a major challenge in controlling the flow of personal information as people research or seek abortions. And often by the time someone is seeking an abortion, they have already generated data that could reveal their health status. Period-tracking apps, for example, gather data that may seem benign but is clearly sensitive in the context of potential abortion criminalization. In one recent case, the Federal Trade Commission investigated and sanctioned the fertility-tracking app Flo Health for sharing user health data with marketing and analytics firms, including Facebook and Google. And researchers have also found numerous examples of health websites sharing personal data with third parties or conducting targeted ad-tracking without adequately informing users and in violation of their privacy policies.

Using a search engine that doesn’t track potentially sensitive user data, like DuckDuckGo, and browser extensions that block web trackers, like EFF’s Privacy Badger, are all steps you can take to significantly cut down on how much of your browsing data ends up in tech companies’ hands. And consider analog options, if possible, for recording and storing reproductive information, like a notebook or paper calendar where you log details of your menstrual cycle.

One of the most pernicious and complicated aspects of attempting to rein in your personal data as you research or seek an abortion is the question of how to mitigate the collection of your location data. Always turn off location services for as many apps as possible—iOS and Android both make this relatively easy now. And if you’re traveling to receive an abortion, you might consider leaving your phone at home or keeping it in a faraday bag for as much of the trip as possible.

“A lot of those data-generating activities that you’ve already engaged in in the past are already out there,” says Andrea Downing, founder of the nonprofit Light Collective and a security and privacy researcher focused on patient populations and social media. “You can delete apps from here forward, turn off location services, stop using a fertility app, and those are all great steps. But it’s also reasonable if people can’t remember everything all the time. Patient populations are susceptible and vulnerable online, and we need to focus on protecting them.”

McMahon, the independent public health researcher, echoes this sentiment, noting that any small steps a person can take to defend their data are positive and should be celebrated.

“I want to emphasize, it is definitely not someone’s fault if they forget to do any of these things and then get criminalized,” she says. “People may feel like they made a mistake if they reach out to others for help, but no! You did a normal human thing and the system is criminalizing you.”

While issues of digital privacy are extremely salient to people seeking abortions, they impact every marginalized and disenfranchised group. And as the Light Collective’s Downing points out, they ultimately affect everyone.

“Roe v. Wade is about privacy, it was always the core thing underlying that case,” she says. “So even if you are not a person seeking an abortion, you need to be thinking in terms of how your rights may be next.”

You Need a Password Manager. Here Are the Best Ones

You Need a Password Manager. Here Are the Best Ones

Bitwarden offers a paid upgrade account. The cheapest of the bunch, Bitwarden Premium, is $10 per year. That gets you 1 GB of encrypted file storage, two-factor authentication with devices like YubiKey, FIDO U2F, Duo, and a password hygiene and vault health report. Paying also gets you priority customer support.

After signing up, download the app for Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, or Linux. There are also browser extensions for Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Edge, Vivaldi, and Brave.

Best Full-Featured Manager

Dashlane app
Courtesy of Dashlane

I first encountered Dashlane several years ago. Back then, it was the same as its competitors with no standout attributes. But recent updates have added several helpful features. One of the best is Site Breach Alerts, something other services have since added as well. Dashlane actively monitors the darker corners of the web, looking for leaked or stolen personal data, and then alerts you if your information has been compromised.

Setup and migration from another password manager is simple, and you’ll use a secret key to encrypt your passwords, much like 1Password’s setup process. In practice, Dashlane is very similar to the others in this list. The company did discontinue its desktop app earlier this year, moving to a web-based user interface, which is a little different than 1Password and Bitwarden. (The desktop apps will officially shut down on January 10, 2022.) I primarily use passwords in the web browser anyway, and Dashlane has add-ons for all the major browsers, along with iOS and Android apps. If a desktop app is important to you, it’s something to be aware of. Dashlane offers a 30-day free trial, so you can test it out before committing.

After signing up, download the app for Android and iOS, and grab the browser extensions for Firefox, Chrome, and Edge.

Best DIY Option (Self-Hosted)

KeePassXC app displayed on Microsoft Windows
Courtesy of KeePassXC

Want to retain more control over your data in the cloud? Try using a desktop application like KeePassXC. It stores encrypted versions of all your passwords into an encrypted digital vault that keeps you secure with a master password, a key file, or both. The difference is that instead of a hosted service like 1Password syncing it for you, you sync that database file yourself using a file-syncing service like Dropbox or Edward Snowden’s recommended service, SpiderOak. Once your file is in the cloud, you can access it on any device that has a KeePassXC client.

Why do it yourself? In a word: Transparency. Like Bitwarden, KeepassXC is open source, which means its code can be and has been inspected for critical flaws.

Download the desktop app for Windows, MacOS, or Linux and create your vault. There are also extensions for Firefox, Edge, and Chrome. It does not have official apps for your phone. Instead, the project recommends KeePass2Android or Strongbox for iPhone.

Another Option

NordPass app shown on Mac laptop
Courtesy of NordPass

NordPass is a relatively new kid on the password manager block, but it comes from a company with significant pedigree. NordVPN is a well-known VPN provider, and the company brings to its password manager much of the ease of use and simplicity that made its VPN offering popular. The installation and setup process is a breeze. There are apps for every major platform (including Linux), browser, and device.

The free version of NordPass is limited to one device, and there’s no syncing available. There is a seven-day free trial of the premium version, which lets you test device syncing. But to get that for good, you’ll have to upgrade to the $36-a-year plan. (Like its VPN service, NordPass accepts payment in cryptocurrencies.)

How to Set Up Lock Screens on All Your Devices

How to Set Up Lock Screens on All Your Devices

It may feel frustrating to have to enter your password every time you sit down at your laptop, or to have to scan your fingerprint every time you want to get into your phone, but these security measures are the most important ones on your device.

Lock screen security is what stands between strangers, thieves, snooping colleagues, overcurious housemates, and all other unauthorized visitors and your private data. Think about it: Once your phone is unlocked, access to your social media, your emails, your documents, your photos, and much more is just a few taps away.

Thankfully, the makers of the major operating systems have been working hard to strike the right balance between protection and convenience when it comes to lock screens. Here’s how to stay safe without making logging in an overly onerous task.

Android

Screenshot of Android lock screen settings menu

Some of the lock screen options available on Android.

Google via David Nield

Different Android devices come with different ways of unlocking, including face scanning and fingerprint reading, so the options you see will vary depending on the make and model of your phone. What’s more, each Android vendor puts out a slightly different spin on the software that comes installed on their handsets.

When it comes to the latest version of Android that Google puts out on its Pixel phones, you can find the lock screen options by opening up the main Settings pane and choosing Security and then Screen lock—the various options available on your phone will then be displayed. Most phones use a PIN as the default or the fallback option, but it’s up to you.

Once a screen lock has been configured, you’re able to customize it by tapping the cog icon next to Screen lock on the Security screen. Here you can choose how long your phone waits before it automatically locks itself: A shorter time is better, because there’s less chance of someone else being able to pick up your phone and access the data on it before the screen lock is enabled.

From the Security menu, pick Advanced settings and then Smart Lock to get a bit more creative with your lock screen setup. Here you can set your phone to automatically unlock itself when it’s connected to a trusted device (like your car’s Bluetooth stereo) or when it’s in a trusted place (like your home—where there’s less of a likelihood of a stranger swiping your handset and trying to gain access to it).

iOS

Screenshot of iOS Face ID and Passcode settings menu

Face ID can protect more than just the lock screen on iOS.

Apple via David Nield

As on Android, your options on iOS will vary: Some iPhones come with Touch ID, for example, and some don’t. We’ll give you the instructions for the latest iOS software running on the latest iPhones with Face ID, but the process is very similar for iPhones with Touch ID instead (and indeed for iPads).