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 phone running Android 10.
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.
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 covers anything you’ve done on Google apps and services) and “Location History” (where you’ve gone with your device). You’ll probably want to check off “Include audio recordings,” which is under “Web & App Activity.”
As long as you’re here, you can also delete “Device Information” (info about contacts, calendars, etc.), “YouTube History” (which includes both your search and watch history), and “Ad personalization” (which uses your history to choose which ads you’ll see).
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.
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.
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.
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:
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 and tap on it. You’ll have four categories that you can toggle on or off:
But wait, there’s more! On the Location page, tap on the “Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 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.
You can find out which apps actually use location tracking and just disable it for those that you feel don’t need it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Twitter makes it relatively simple to turn off its location tracking within the Android app.
You can delete your Twitter location history as well, but only from your browser.
Update August 25th, 2020, 2:37PM ET: This article was originally published on April 12th, 2019; it has been updated to include the update from Android 9 to Android 10, along with changes to various web-based applications.