TIP: How To Stop Your Mobile Device From Tracking You

Phil Roeder http://www.flickr.com/photos/tabor-roeder/

Learn how to disable location tracking on your smartphone

Apple users might recall the big news story that came out a while back regarding the fact that the iphone doesn’t just track your information, but also saves years of it in an unsecured database within the phone. Most users already knew about the location tracking, but the practice of storing this information in an unsecure way on the device left many with privacy concerns. Even Congress wanted an explanation from Apple.

It should come as no surprise that a user’s phone is in fact ‘spying’ on them, meaning that their cell phone keeps track of location information. This can apply to a variety of mobile phones, but particularly smartphones, including iPhone, Android, and Blackberry devices. The reason for this is that many of the popular apps people use on smartphones, like Facebook or Foursquare, allow you to ‘check in’ at various places around town. They do this by keeping track of your physical location via GPS. Even taking out your phone to make a simple call will cause it to track bits of information about what cell towers are within range.

Even so, upon finding out that law enforcement agencies have already known and used mobile ‘spying’ for the past several years to gather evidence on suspects’ whereabouts, many have raised concerns about privacy. In the case of the iPhone, users wanted to know why location information is stored on the phone for months after it has already been anonymously uploaded to Apple’s servers.

The good news is, there’s a way to stop your mobile phone from spying on you – just tell it not to. Here’s how to do it:

On Apple Devices (iPhone, iPad, etc)

1. Click Settings -> Location Services

2. Flip the “Location Services” toggle to “Off.”

NOTE: Although you can turn off location tracking on a per-app basis, you need to disable the master location tracking at the top of the screen to stop your iPhone from “spying” on you.

EDIT: According to several reliable reports in news outlets today, disabling location settings on your iPhone or iPad won’t stop Apple from tracking your location – meaning that at present, there is absolutely no way to disable Apple’s location tracking.

On Android Devices (Android Mobile Phones and Tablets):

1. Click Applications -> Settings -> Location

2. Uncheck all of the boxes on this screen.

NOTE: Different handset providers have alternative methods of turning off location services. On HTC phones, for example, you can start the Setup utility and, at the stage reading “Use Google Location,” you can turn off all location service features with a single checkbox.

Blackberry Devices

1. Go to Settings > Options > Advnced Options > GPS

2. Set GPS Services to Location Off.

Users should note that applications that rely on location services, like Foursquare, will not function with them turned off. It’s a tradeoff: you either let people know where you are, and risk exposing yourself to the possibility of stealing your phone and learning where you’ve been, or you disable location tracking and prevent yourself from being able to use some awesome apps!

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