How to Stop Your Android and Its Apps From Tracking Your Location

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Much to the chagrin of big tech companies, nobody wants their smartphones to spy on them. By default, however, our mobile devices track our every move—and share that data with other apps and services. Luckily, as with most things on Android, you don’t need to live with the default setup presented to you. Instead, you can manage your location services to fit your privacy values.

How to disable Location entirely on Android

You can disable Location on Android so no location data is shared to Google or any of your other apps. To do so, swipe down from the top of the screen, then long-press Location (the icon appears as a “location arrow”). If you don’t see Location here, tap “Edit” or “Settings,” then drag Location into your Quick Settings.

While this might be the best way to secure your location privacy on Android, it isn’t particularly convenient. Any apps that need location data to function, such as Google Maps, simply won’t work with this setting turned off. If you can live with that, you can have a location-free Android experience. But for most of us, we’re better off tinkering with other location settings.

How to disable location permissions for apps

Instead of turning off Location entirely on Android, you’ll likely find it more useful to manage permissions for each of your apps. Not all apps are equal, of course, so you’ll likely want to give some apps more access to location, and hold back for others.

Head to Settings > Location > App permission. You’ll see three categories: Allowed all the time, which contains apps that have access to your location whenever they want; Allowed only while in use, which contains apps that can only use your location when those apps are active; and Ask every time, which contains apps that must ask permission to use your location every time. Tap any of these categories to view the apps with those permissions. To change the permission for a particular app, tap the app, and choose a new option.

Alternatively, you can change location permissions for apps one-by-one. Long-press the app in question on your phone’s home screen, then tap the (i). Choose Permissions > Location, then choose one of the three above categories, or Deny, which will block that app from your location information.

How to disable Location Accuracy on Android

Android uses Location Accuracy to determine your precise location; it takes your GPS, wifi, mobile network, and phone sensor information to give you location-based suggestions, as well as show your exact location on-screen. This can be useful for certain apps, but you might be uncomfortable with both Google and its connected apps and services having access to that data.

To disable Location Accuracy, head to Settings > Location > Advanced > Google Location Accuracy, then disable Improve Location Accuracy. When you disable this feature, Google will only be able to use GPS to determine your location. Not totally private, but also much less accurate than the default.

How to delete & disable Location History on Android

Location history is exactly what it sounds like; Google saves a record of the places you go with your smartphone to power things like recommendations, helping you find your phone, and real-time traffic updates. To many of us, however, it’s a bit creepy.

To disable Location History, head to your Google Account’s Activity controls. Sign in if you aren’t already. View Location History, and choose “Turn off.” On the pop-up, choose “Pause,” and a new pop-up will appear. Choose “Delete old activity,” and Google will launch a Location History map; here, you can see pinpoints for all locations you’ve been with Google. To delete this info, just click the trash can in the bottom right, click the checkbox on the pop-up, then click “DELETE LOCATION HISTORY.”  

You can also choose for Google to automatically delete your Location History after a set period of time. From your Activity controls page, select the option under Auto-delete, choose the option under Auto-delete activity older than, then choose either 3 months, 18 months, or 36 months. Choose Next to save your choice.

How to disable Location sharing

If you have Location sharing enabled, but regret sharing your whereabouts with your contacts list, you can easily turn this feature off. Open Google Maps, tap your profile icon, then choose Location sharing. Tap the profile of the contact you don’t want to share your location with any longer, then tap Stop to confirm.

How to disable location permissions for web browsing

Google gives you controls over which websites have your location information. To disable location permission for a website, go to that website in your browser. Tap the Lock to the left of the address bar, tap Permissions, then turn Location off for that website.

Of course, you can disable location permissions for your entire browser; just follow the instructions above for disabling location permissions for specific apps (in this case, a browser like Chrome or Firefox).

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