How to stop Android apps from tracking your location

Your smartphone can be a valuable source of information for anyone who wants to spy on you. Here's how to disable location tracking on Android devices

Often ignored, Android app permissions are instead one of the most useful pieces of information that the green robot operating system provides us with. Android app permissions are one of the most useful pieces of information that the OS provides. With permissions, you can find out what "hidden" features your app has, what components and sensors your smartphone uses, and what information it needs to work.

Through permissions notifications, for example, the app warns you if it needs access to your contacts, call list, messages or even geolocation. In short, by paying attention to the permissions you grant, you can tell if an app has the potential to put our privacy at risk. In particular, you should think carefully before allowing an app to access your location: unless it's a smartphone navigator (or an app with similar functionality), location tracking allows any developer to know (more or less exactly) where you are at any time of the day.

Unfortunately, Android allows you to remedy your distraction and revoke permissions granted lightly. All you have to do is change a couple of preferences in Android Settings to stop Android apps from tracking your location and reduce the level of geolocation accuracy. Here's how to do it.

Disable Android 9 Location

With Android 9, Google has changed the way users can manage location by apps and the degree of tracking accuracy. While in the past users had much more freedom, today the choice is reduced to an "on" and "off". Choosing to turn location on, in fact, will activate what used to be called High Accuracy (a combination of Wi-Fi, cellular network and GPS data); choosing to turn location off, on the other hand, will only use the smartphone's GPS sensor. To change your smartphone's default preferences: go to Settings > Settings & Lock Screen and here choose Geolocation. By moving the switch to Localization you'll make your choice.

Disable Localization Android 8, Android 7 and Android 6

As mentioned, in earlier versions of the green robot operating system the user has more choices when it comes to managing location services. With Android 6, Android 7 and Android 8, in fact, the Geolocation menu item will give you access to more options. First of all, you'll be able to choose whether to enable Location tracking or not; if so, you'll be able to enter the Mode section and choose between High accuracy (a combination of GPS, cellular network and Wi-Fi data); Battery saving (only data from Wi-Fi and cellular network, to get an estimated location); Device sensors only (localization through GPS only). The various settings, of course, correspond to a greater or lesser accuracy in finding the exact location and, therefore, a greater or lesser degree of privacy protection.

Disable Android localization for individual apps

As mentioned, though, it's always worth checking which apps have access to location tracking and, in case of some "wide sleeve concessions", disable localization for individual apps. From Settings choose Apps and then App Permissions: here, click on Geolocation to see the list of apps that can access location tracking. To disable location tracking for individual apps, just move the switch from right to left and you're done.