Nobody wants their smartphones to spy on them, much to the chagrin of big tech companies. Our mobile devices, on the other hand, track our every move by default and share that information with other apps and services. Fortunately, as with most things on Android, you don’t have to stick with the default settings. Rather, you can tailor your location services to your privacy preferences.
How to disable Location entirely on Android
On Android, you can turn off Location so that no location data is shared with Google or any of your other apps. Swipe down from the top of the screen, then long-press Location (the icon will appear as a “location arrow”). If Location isn’t listed, tap “Edit” or “Settings,” then drag it into your Quick Settings.
While this is the most secure way to protect your Android location privacy, it isn’t particularly convenient. With this setting disabled, any apps that require location data, such as Google Maps, will simply not work. You can have a location-free Android experience if you can live with that. For the most part, however, we’d be better off fiddling with other location settings.
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How to disable location permissions for apps
Instead of turning off Location on Android completely, you’ll probably find that managing permissions for each of your apps is more useful. Of course, not all apps are created equal, so you’ll probably want to give some apps more location access while denying it to others.
Go to Settings > Location > App permission. There are three types of categories: Allowed all the time, which includes apps that can access your location at any time; Allowed only while in use, which includes apps that can only use your location while you’re using them; and Ask every time, which includes apps that must ask permission to use your location every time you use them. To see the apps that have those permissions, tap any of these categories. To change a permission for a specific app, tap it and select a new option.
Alternatively, you can change each app’s location permissions individually. Long-press the app you want to uninstall on your phone’s home screen, then tap the uninstall button (i). Choose Permissions > Location, then select one of the three categories listed above, or Deny to prevent that app from accessing your location data.
How to disable Location Accuracy on Android
Android uses Location Accuracy to determine your exact location; it uses information from your GPS, wifi, mobile network, and phone sensor to provide location-based suggestions and display your exact location on-screen. This is useful for some apps, but you may be concerned that Google and its connected apps and services will have access to your data.
Go to Settings > Location > Advanced > Google Location Accuracy, then disable Improve Location Accuracy to turn off Location Accuracy. When you turn off this feature, Google will only be able to determine your location using GPS. Not only is it not completely private, but it is also significantly less accurate than the default.
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How to delete & disable Location History on Android
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, among other things. However, for many of us, it’s a little 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 to have Google delete your Location History after a specified amount of time. Select the option under Auto-delete, then select the option under Auto-delete activity older than, then choose 3 months, 18 months, or 36 months from your Activity controls page. To save your selection, select Next.
How to disable Location sharing
If you have Location sharing turned on but don’t want to share your location with your contacts, you can easily disable it. Open Google Maps, tap your profile icon, and then select Location sharing from the drop-down menu. Tap the profile of the contact with whom you no longer want to share your location, then tap Stop to confirm.
How to disable location permissions for web browsing
Google allows you to choose which websites have access to your location data. Go to a website’s location permissions page in your browser to disable it. Turn Location off for that website by tapping the Lock to the left of the address bar, then Permissions.
Of course, you can disable location permissions for your entire browser; simply follow the steps outlined above to disable location permissions for specific apps (in this case, a browser like Chrome or Firefox).