Location data tracking is prevalent in the tech world to ubiquity, so learning how to control that — in case you need or prefer to — on an Android phone or tablet is important.
Now, the reasons that you might want to stop Google from tracking your location are straightforward. But they’re also numerous. For instance, while Google has made attempts to keep location data private where possible, it hasn’t always succeeded. In some cases, as with the example linked here, that’s resulted in user data being outright sold.
Of course, that’s setting aside Google’s own location data gathering. And the location data gathering that’s harvested elsewhere. All of which can potentially be used for everything from the mundane and helpful to more malicious things such as identity theft. So keeping this data private — at least to a reasonable extent — is paramount. Perhaps nowhere more so than on your mobile device and tablet. Since those are the gadgets that will be used, as it were, on the go.
More importantly, this doesn’t just apply to Google. With other top sites and apps tracking location data too, such as Facebook, Twitter, and apps. Well, that’s exactly what this guide is here to show. So if you’re looking to stop more location tracking than just from Google Maps on your Android phone or tablet, this how-to guide can help.
Here’s how to put an end to location tracking on Android
First and foremost, it’s worth noting that this how-to guide applies to both tablets and smartphones, rather than computers or individual apps. There are entirely different processes to follow for your laptop, PC, or some apps that you use.
Additionally, as with all of our how-to guides, the steps may not ultimately be identical. Chiefly, that’s because of differences in how some OEMs present menus. And different versions of different apps might have different processes too. But it is a good starting point and the steps should be close enough for this guide to be helpful in any case.
Turn off location tracking by Google and in Chrome
Now, the first thing you’ll likely want to do, in order to end location data tracking across Google and its services from your Android device, is to shut it off on the web-side of the equation.
- Navigate to the Settings app
- Using the search bar at the top of Settings, search for “Activity Controls”
- Select the top result, which reads “Activity controls”
- If you’re using a smartphone or tablet with more than one Google account signed in, you’ll be presented with a choice. Select the account that you’d like to manage before proceeding to the next step
- Scroll down to “Location History”
- In the Location History card, select the button which reads “Turn off” to turn off the feature. You’ll be asked if you want to pause, with that pause applying to all services, sites, apps, and devices linked to the Google account
- Select the “Pause” button at the bottom of the explanation
- If you’d like to delete your history, at this point you’ll be given that option. Follow the on-page link. Otherwise, tap the “Got it” button
- Location history will now be paused until turned back on
- You can also choose to have your location history deleted automatically after 3, 18, or 36 months — or not at all — in the option just below the now deactivated “Location History,” as shown in our images below
Turn it off for apps that you use
Conversely, you can also turn off location tracking for individual apps that you don’t particularly trust. Although that may not be as comprehensive as you might like, as we’ll discuss in this segment.
- Begin by swiping down from your notification shade — some devices will require two swipes down to reveal the menus we’re looking for. Locate the “Location” tile in the Quick Settings, as shown in our images
- If you can’t find the Location tile in the Quick Settings, you may need to add the tile. Or it may be on a different screen, so you should swipe left and right to see if it’s been paged to a second or third Quick Settings page
- Long-press on the Location tile to access the Location page in Settings
- Select “App permission” or whichever option is similar — it may read App location permissions.
- The resulting page will show location tracking in several categories. Those that are “Allowed all the time,” “Allow only while in use,” “Ask every time,” and “Not allowed” will be the final option. Tap on an app you’d like to change permissions for
- Select from the above-listed options.
- “Allowed all the time” lets apps access your location data at any time
- “Allow only while in use” lets apps access the data only when the app is open or in the Recent apps list
- “Ask every time” is self-explanatory. It allows apps to access location data only for a single session, and only with your explicit permission for each session
- “Don’t allow” doesn’t allow the app to access the location data. Which may or may not result in apps asking frequently for access — or simply not working properly, depending on the app
- Tap the back arrow at the top of the page. Rinse and repeat steps five and six as needed, for whichever apps you’d like to control location access for
Turn location history off for all apps temporarily …or permanently
Now that you’ve added Location to your Quick Tiles — if it wasn’t already, you can turn on or off location access for all apps at a click.
- Swipe down to pull down your notification shade and reveal the Quick Tiles. You may need to pull down twice, as noted above, to show all Quick Tiles
- Swipe, as needed, to find the “Location” Quick Setting
- Tap the “Location” Quick Setting Tile. If Location access is off, the tile will be shaded. If Location access is turned on, the tile will be colored to match your Android device’s theme
- For deeper control, you can also accomplish that via a long-press the Location Quick Settings Tile. And then by;
- Scroll down the page and select the option that reads “Location services” or “Advanced
- Google will display all of the methods used for tracking or narrowing down the location, including location accuracy settings. Each can be adjusted, although it’s important to note exactly what each is. It’s also important to note, again, that these may be different for your own device, depending on the manufacturer;
- Emergency Location Services – ELS is used to inform emergency services of your location in case of an emergency. For instance, these services are those such as a dispatcher to send an ambulance, police, or similar. Even with this setting turned off, if the need arises, your mobile carrier may still inform emergency services where to find you. So this won’t stop your carrier from locating you. And, simultaneously, it’s a good idea to keep this turned on just in case your mobile carrier doesn’t locate you as accurately
- Google Location Accuracy – Google Location Accuracy is a service that utilizes multiple technologies to locate you more accurately. For instance, it uses Wi-Fi triangulation in addition to other onboard hardware. While turning this off will help keep apps and Google from pinpointing your location, it will also interfere with some apps. Such as those that require precise location data — for instance, for mapping. You can learn about the differences between precise and approximate location settings in Android, beyond how to stop tracking, here
- Google Location History – Google Location History does what it says. This option takes you back to the above-mentioned location history tracking page linked to your Google Account. Specifically, that’s the first guide on this page, discussing how to stop location tracking by Google and in Chrome on your Android device
- Google Location Sharing – Google Location Sharing is something of a misnomer. This doesn’t refer to Google tracking you, necessarily. Instead, it leads to options for managing location sharing with friends, family, and other contacts
- The final two options typically found in the Android Location services menu are, as often as not, found on the previous page. So, if you don’t see them here, return to the Location menu using the back button at the top left-hand side of the UI. Then scroll down
- Wi-Fi scanning – Wi-Fi scanning allows apps and services to scan local Wi-Fi networks, even if your Wi-Fi radio is turned on in Settings or the Quick Settings Tiles
- Bluetooth scanning – Finally Bluetooth scanning does something similar to Wi-Fi scanning. But searches for Bluetooth devices instead. Together with Wi-Fi scanning, the last two options here are meant to help apps that require precise location data to better narrow down exactly where you are. Thus, improving location-based features and apps