Location tracking can be very handy — it’s convenient when an app can tell you, say, where the near restaurants or gas stations are — but it’s also a privacy issue. Do you want all your wanderings registered by Google? Are you comfortable knowing that Mark Zuckerberg’s minions know where you are at all times? (Well, not that Mark Zuckerberg has minions, but you know what I mean.)
In this article, we’ll take a look at how to stop location tracking on your Android phone and how to delete your location history from your OS and from some of the more popular apps. As always, note that versions of Android can differ, and many manufacturers use overlays as well, which can change the locations of various commands — but they should be similar enough for you to be able to find your way. For these instructions, I’ve used a Pixel 3 XL running Android 9.
Stop Google from tracking you, period.
You probably know that Google can track your location and movements through its Google Maps app. But you may not realize that your Android phone is also tracking your movements and activities through several other built-in apps.
If you really don’t want your phone to be tracking any of your movements and activities, there is a way to turn tracking off for all (well, most) of them. You just need to be aware that you’re probably going to render many of your apps (such as ride-share apps, weather apps, and, of course, mapping apps) less usable. Or in some cases, completely unusable.
Stop Google tracking using a browser
- Go to https://myactivity.google.com/.
- Select “Activity Controls,” found in the left-hand menu.
- Scroll down through the various activities and choose any you’d like to turn off.
This may take a while, especially if you want to do some research into what you’ll be affecting. Activities listed that would reveal your location include “Web & App Activity” (which cover anything you’ve done on Google apps and services) and “Location History” (where you’ve gone with your device). You can also delete “Device Information” (info about contacts, calendars, etc.), “Voice & Audio Activity,” “YouTube Search History,” and “YouTube Watch History.”
You’ve prevented any more data from being gathered. But now you may want to delete all or some of the information that’s already been collected.
- Go back to the My Activity page and click on “Delete activity by” in the left-hand menu.
- You can filter your info to delete activity by app, keyword, or date.
Stop Google tracking on an Android device
- Go to Settings. Find “Accounts” and tap on Google.
- If there’s more than one account listed, tap on the one you want to change.
- Tap on “Google Account.”
- Scroll down to “Manage your data & personalization” and select it.
- Look under “Activity controls.” Here, as with the browser version, you can turn off or pause the monitoring of various activities.
- If you want more granular control of your activities, you can scroll down and select “Manage your activity controls.”
- To delete your past activity records, look on that same page for “My Activity.” Tap on it to see your saved data.
- In each category, tap on the three dots on the right side to delete some or all of the data.
Stop location tracking on Android devices
If you don’t feel the need to block Google from recording all your activities, and simply want to stop the phone from recording your location, it’s easy to do — as long as you pay attention to the details:
- Go to Settings > Security & location
- Look for the Privacy subhead, where you’ll see Location. Click on that.
- Find the “Use location” feature at the top and toggle it off.
You’d think that would be it, wouldn’t you? But you’d be wrong. What is meant by “Use location” in Android depends on which sensors are following the location of the device: besides GPS, it could be Wi-Fi, mobile networks, or other sensors. So before you leave this page, look a little further down to the “Advanced” button, tap on it, and look for “Location services.” You’ll have four categories that you can toggle on or off:
- Google Emergency Location Service. This tells emergency services where you are if there’s a problem; for example, if your car goes off the road and the ambulance needs to find you. You can turn this off if you want, but read the fine print: “If ELS is off, your mobile carrier may still send device location during an emergency call.”
- Google Location Accuracy. This uses Wi-Fi and other services to help pinpoint your location. If you want to turn off “Use location,” you need to make sure this is turned off as well.
- Google Location History. This leads you to a page where you can pause your device’s collection of your location history. That doesn’t get rid of what’s already been saved; there are instructions for that a little later in this article.
- Google Location Sharing. If you’re sharing your location with family members or friends you can manage it here.
But wait, there’s more! On the Location page, tap on the Scanning link. Two toggles let you determine if the apps and services on your phone can scan for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi networks, even when those features are turned off. So you may want to turn those off as well.
Turn location tracking on and off from the Quick Settings tray
If you want to be able to turn location tracking on or off as you need it, you can do that, too. One way to arrange this is to use the Quick Settings tray (which is what you see when you swipe down from the top of your screen). The tray holds a variety of icons for the most often-used Android features; there is a “Location” icon that lets you toggle the location feature on and off.
- Swipe down from the top of the screen. You should see a line of icons for things like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, flashlight, etc. That’s your Quick Settings tray. Look for the Location icon (usually, it looks like an upside-down drop of water).
- Not there? Swipe down from the bottom of that line of icons. You’ll see a few more.
- Still missing? Look for a pencil icon; in a Pixel, it will be on the bottom of the tray, but some Android interfaces will have it on top. Tap on the pencil, and the menu will open further. You can now see all the icons that are available. What you want to do is make sure the Location icon is in the easily visible part of the tray.
- If your Location icon is in the bottom section, hold and drag it up to the visible group.
You’ll now be able to quickly swipe down from the top of your screen and toggle Location on and off — for example, if you want to use Google Maps for directions, you can toggle Location on, and then turn it back off when you’re finished.
Disable location tracking for any specific app
Having to remember to turn location tracking on and off can get tiresome. An alternative is to find out which apps actually use location tracking, and just disable it for those that you feel don’t need it.
- Go to Settings.
- Tap on “Apps & notifications.” Open the Advanced heading and look for “App permissions.”
- Tap on Location. You’ll find here a list of all your current apps with a toggle showing whether they have location tracking activated. You can go down the list and toggle off any that you want to (or toggle them back on if it proves to be an issue).
Sometimes, when you turn off permissions in the Android Settings, the app itself will continually try to get you to restore that permission. It’s irritating, but unless the app lets you say, “No, leave me alone,” you will either have to live with it, or get a different app.
Delete your location history
While you can turn off location tracking from your Android phone’s settings, once a service has collected your location info, getting rid of that history takes a little work. If you want to delete your location history, the first place you need to go is Google; after that, apps that collect this information include Facebook and Twitter.
Delete your Google location history on Android
While you can delete location history collected for your Google timeline in the My Activity area (see above), you can also get rid of it easily in Google Maps.
- Go to your Google Maps app.
- Tap on the three parallel lines in the upper left corner.
- Tap on “Your timeline.”
- Select the three dots in the upper right corner. Tap on Settings.
- Scroll down to “Delete all Location History.” You’ll get a pop-up window that asks you to check a box saying that you understand that some of your apps may not work properly. Check the box and select “Delete.”
Delete your Google location history on a browser
- Go to https://www.google.com/maps.
- Tap on the three parallel lines in the upper left corner of the side panel. (If you don’t see the panel, look for the small arrow in the upper left corner and click on it.) Select “Your timeline.”
- Look for the gear icon on the lower right side of the screen. Click on it, and then on “Delete all Location History.”
- As with the mobile app, you’ll get a pop-up window that asks you to check a box saying that you understand that some of your apps may not work properly. Check the box and select “Delete Location History.”
Delete your location history on Facebook
Facebook does keep a separate history of your locations, and if you want to delete that history, you can do it through the mobile app or the browser.
Using the Android app
- In the Facebook app, tap the hamburger (three parallel lines) in the top right corner.
- Scroll down and tap on “Settings & Privacy.”
- Tap on “Settings.”
- Scroll down and tap on “Location” (which is under the “Privacy” subhead).
- You can toggle “Location History” on and off here; you can also click on “Location Services,” which will take you to the Android “Location access” page, where you can turn location access completely off.
- But you want to delete your location history. Tap on “View your Location History.” Tap on the three dots in the upper right corner.
- You can now either “Delete this day” or “Delete all location history.” Tap on the latter. It will ask you if you’re sure — if you are, tap on “OK.”
Using a browser
- In Facebook, click on the small arrow next to the Help icon in the upper right corner. Click on “Settings.”
- Look for “Location” in the left-hand menu and click on it.
- Click on “View your Location History.” Note that while you can delete your location history here, you can only turn it off in your mobile app.
- Click on the three dots in the upper right corner. As with the mobile app, you can now either “Delete this day” or “Delete all location history.”
Delete your location history on Twitter
Twitter makes it relatively simple to turn off its location tracking within the Android app.
- Tap the three parallel lines on the upper left of the home screen.
- Tap on “Settings and privacy.”
- Tap on “Privacy and safety.”
- Scroll down until you see “Precise location” and tap on it. You can then uncheck the box that gives Twitter permission to collect your GPS and other location information.
You can delete your Twitter location history as well, but only from your browser.
- Go to your Twitter account, click on your icon and on “Settings and privacy.”
- On the left-hand menu, click on “Privacy and safety.”
- If you’ve got “Tweet with a location” checked, uncheck it.
- Then click on “Delete location information.” And if it asks: yes, you are sure.
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