Stop mobile apps from tracking your location

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Spending a few minutes now changing settings in your mobile device can stave off a lot of tracking. Find out how in this article.

Most tracking is done by free apps, so looking into equivalent paid apps (if available) and their privacy policies is an alternative. Another option is to leave location on and disable tracking inside individual apps, if possible. It's worth noting that turning off location tracking on a device stops apps that rely on your location to send you information, such as maps.

If you're wondering why you would want to disable location tracking on your mobile device, an article by the New York Times brings to light how much data mobile apps collect and how it's used for profit. It's a long-ish article with links to how the data was acquired and analyzed. It's worth a read, though it's a little spooky. Here's some of the main points from the article that show why you might want to disable tracking on your device or in your apps:

- The data that's collected can pinpoint people's location within a few yards using exact longitude and latitude signals and can include details like names and addresses of streets.

- The companies collecting location the data sell it to advertisers, retail outlets and other entities like financial firms and hedge funds. One advertising firm uses health care facility location data to target people in emergency rooms with ads for personal injury lawyers. That technology is called “geofencing” and is the reason things on your mobile device seem to follow you around from one place to another. Precise location data from just one app (WeatherBug on iOS) was received by 40 different companies.

- Some companies tracked data on 200 million mobile devices last year. In some cases locations were updated more than 14,000 times a day.

- Though the companies say they are interested in patterns and not identities, tracking data can be tied to an individual.

- More than 75 companies collect exact location data from apps. Android has about 1,200 apps that use tracking code, iOS has approximately 200. Many of these are free apps that are popular with Android and iOS users to deliver local weather, news, and sports updates. Some companies say they delete the data after it's used to deliver ads, others use the data for ads and pass it along to data aggregation companies, and some keep the information for years.

- Permission to share your location data isn't transparent. It's often located in term of service (TOS) agreements or the apps privacy settings, areas most of us don't pay attention to.

- Sales of location-targeted advertising are estimated to reach $21 billion this year, making location data a valuable commodity.

 How to Stop Apps From Tracking Your Location
 

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Comments

Thank you for the information from the NYT, though I suspect most of us knew it already.

What concerns me is that there is nothing here (apart from read the TOS or use a paid app) about how to stop apps from tracking your location. Maybe an article devoted to that might be of interest ?

Apps normally have a setting that gives you the option to disable location tracking, and ask to use location data when they are installed. If you're going to leave location tracking turned on and have given permission for any apps to use your location, the settings have to be changed for each app.
Myself, I knew that tracking was occurring, but I had no idea of the extent and accuracy of the tracking or how much money is being made from personal location tracking.