Location tracking has made our lives easier, as we can find nearby restaurants, hotels, gas stations, and more. We can use Google Maps to plan a travel route, keep track of our children in real-time with GPS and find a stolen or lost device through certain apps.
But although location tracking can be quite useful, it also comes with its share of privacy and security risks. The convenience it offers may not be worth compromising your privacy.
Potential Dangers of Location Tracking
Google and many other companies collect your location data to personalize their services and send targeted ads to consumers. That can come in handy, as they can send you ads for products and services that you’d be genuinely interested in.
However, your location can reveal a lot about you:
- Where you live and work.
- Where your friends and relatives live.
- When you work, and which routes you take to work.
- Where you shop and eat.
- When you travel and where you go on a vacation.
You might be uncomfortable with marketers and companies getting access to such information. Disabling the tracking, at least to a degree, will reduce the risk of random companies learning more about your physical location.
How to Disable Location Tracking on Android Devices
If you’re not comfortable with Google and numerous apps recording all your whereabouts, here’s how you can hide them.
Go to Settings > Location and toggle off the “Access my location” switch.
Tap on the “Location” settings just below to inspect all the apps with permission to access your device’s location. If you want to restrict their access, you have to do it separately for each app. Tap on an app and choose “Deny” from the three available options.
Make sure you tap on the three-dots menu and select “Show system” to display all the system apps with location permission.
Go back and tap on “Advanced settings,” where you can toggle off Wi-Fi scanning and Bluetooth scanning. If you leave them on, you’ll allow apps and other location-based services to access your location at any given moment, even when your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are off.
Go back again and scroll down to find other location services, including:
- Emergency Location Service (ELS). When you contact an emergency number, ELS can help authorities learn your location.
- Google Location Accuracy. If you turn this service off, your device will still use GPS, unless you keep the “Access my location” setting off.
- Google Location History. Tapping on this service will take you to a page where you turn off and delete your location history.
- Google Location Sharing. This service takes you to a page where you can manage your real-time location sharing on Google.
Hide Your IP address
Even after you’ve turned off all those location-based services, Google may not stop tracking your location.
A few years back, news about Google tracking its users even when their location was off took over the internet. Google’s employees even admitted that the only way Google wouldn’t be able to know where its users lived and worked is if they set their home and work addresses as random locations.
If you use a VPN on Android, you can limit another area from which entities can extract your location. Your IP address pinpoints your approximate location, and basically, all websites and services you use see it.
A VPN will hide your IP address and encrypt your internet traffic. Additionally, you can choose the location your IP address associates with. Simply connect to a VPN server in a location you prefer. Do that, turn off location tracking via your Android, and you can significantly limit location tracking.
Some Android apps require location access to perform their base functions, but most of them don’t need your location at all. By tracking where you are at any given moment, they only offer personalization and improve your user experience.
It’s undeniable that location tracking is convenient, but it poses some serious privacy and security risks. The question is, are you ready to give up your privacy and become a potential target for criminals just to enjoy a bit of convenience that location-based services offer?