How to Block Your Phone From Being Tracked
by Colin Aulds
Do you suspect your phone is being tracked?
Do you wonder what kind of data google knows about you?
Want to know how to prevent app companies from knowing your location?
How Much Do App Companies Know About Me?
Smart phones are ubiquitous. We use them for navigation, banking, shopping, social media and so on.
Some of these applications use the GPS technology in your phone to make their features more useful to you (think about yelp asking for you location so it can recommend restaurants in your area).
Sometimes they use your GPS to serve you ads for goods or services you are more likely to say yes to buying.
But often times, apps have no need to access your location data, but do so anyway.
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For instance, why would this flashlight app need to know your location?
Regardless of how justified an app's access to your location data may or may not be, that data must be sent somewhere - the app company.
So, if you are wondering ‘is my phone being tracked?’ the answer is yes.
Your phone is being tracked by dozens of companies and agencies and it is all entirely legal because you gave them permission to take this data from you when you downloaded their app and implicitly (or explicitly) agreed to their terms of service.
Knowing this, it now makes a lot more sense that these companies can give these apps away for free. As the saying goes, “If you didn’t pay for the product, you are the product”.
If you use a smartphone with a GPS, there is someone who is always keeping an eye on you virtually.
Even though some companies give us valid reasons for cell phone tracking, like counting our steps or providing navigation, these companies (and more importantly the advertisers they rely on to exist) now have personal and even compromising details about your life that you would probably prefer them not to have.
This goes for individuals, companies and governments.
The details such as where you are going, where you live, and what you are eating should not be available for the world to see.
What most people do not realize is that this data is accessible to all kinds of people, many with ill motives.
This might be disturbing to you, so you might wonder "how can I prevent cellular carriers and other companies from selling my data and accessing my location?"
How To Block Your Phone From Being Tracked
If you're now wondering "How do I block my phone from being tracked?", there are several answers to this question.
Turn Off Location Services
One easy thing to do is to turn off app based location services on your phone.
This means that you are telling your device not to share GPS data with the apps you have installed on your device. At the very least, make sure your GPS location is not being tracked when the app is closed, since there are very few cases where such a practice is justified.
To access location services on an apple device, go to
Settings -> Privacy -> Location Services
To turn off location services on an Andorid device, well...Google will make it difficult on you and there is no simple answer to this. After all, Google is the worst offender on this front as approximately 84% of its annual revenue comes from ads.
Anyway, these directions should help get you started:
Use Privacy Browsers and VPNs on Your Phone
Use private browsing options in browsers like Firefox or better yet, use a tor browser on your phone when possible.
While these don't necessarily cover your GPS data, they do block cookies and conceal your true IP address, which is another method by which these companies monitor you.
Limit Ad Tracking
Settings -> Google -> Ads -> Toggle "Opt out of Ads Personalization"
If you are using an apple device, and didn't feel you could completely turn off location based services (maybe you wanted to keep find my iPhone running?) then head go back to:
Settings -> Privacy -> Location Services -> scroll down to 'System Services'
- > disable Location Based iAds.
Clear Stored Historical Activity on Your Device
- Sign into google
- Select 'Account' in the top right corner
- Select 'Manage Your Data and Personalization'
4. Select Location History
5. Uncheck Location History to Pause it
6. Agree to the prompt (and laugh at Google's attempt to get you to change your mind)
7. Go back to 'Data and Personalization' and select 'Timeline'
8. This is where Google keeps a very eye-opening and shocking map-based log of all the locations it has tracked you at.
Select the delete button in the bottom right, tick the box, and agree to delete.
9. Delete all google software off your phone forever and burn it (kidding...kind of)
Turn Bluetooth Off
Now even your bluetooth functionality on your phone can be used over very short distances to track your exact location in, say, a store.
Stores will further analyze your devices unique fingerprint (the unique mixture of apps on your phone) to assign it an ID and then recopgnize you in future visits.
But if your bluetooth is disabled, no worries.
The Ultimate Fool Proof Solution: Use a Faraday Bag
For all the methods I've outlined above, they all rely on the honesty of the companies that are promising not to track you or on the companies that have manufactured the hardware.
Can you really know your phone is not transmitting GPS data when you turn it off? With specialized equipment, you could determine this, but there is a far easier solution.
The best way to protect you from cell phone tracking is by investing in something called a Faraday Bag, sometimes also called a cell phone pouch.
A Faraday bag is a cell phone signal blocking bag that prevents any kind of radio waves that your cell phone is built to receive from entering the bag, keeping your phone safe from tracking methods like those I described above.
Whenever you need your phone, you can take it out of the bag and use it normally.
One thing that the users should keep in mind with a Faraday Bag is that it will block all the signals in your phone, so if you are anticipating an important call, it is not the best idea to keep your device in a Faraday bag.
How Do Faraday Bags Work?
Similar to the Faraday cage displayed above, a Faraday bag is made with conducting materials that is helpful in blocking out all of the external electric fields. So when any other electric signal tries to enter the bag, it gets distributed evenly on it and does not penetrate inside.
This way the hackers, thieves, or government agencies who are trying to track your phone or any other device will not be able to get to it because of the outer layer of the Faraday bag.
Unlike other solutions we've given in this guide, this is the only one where you don't have to trust anyone or anything except the laws of physics which is why a Faraday bag is the most reliable way to prevent your phone and location data from being monitored and mined by third parties.
And added bonus: Faraday bags can keep other data and property safe too!
Preventing Keyless Car Theft
Keyless car thefts have been increasing as key fobs become more common.
The reason for this is that people often do not know that the signal from their keys can be copied by a device called key fob code grabber.
The code grabber is brought into near proximity to your key fob, and the signal is then cloned and used to unlock and start your car without the actual key.
Watch one of the code grabbers in use here:
Preventing Mobile Devices From Being Accessed Remotely
Gadgets such as laptops, tablets, and smart watches are also prone to be hacked and misused.
The best ways to prevent this is by keeping them in a Faraday Bag.
Preventing RFID Swiping
Smart cards also contain information that can be stolen. These include credit cards, driver's licenses, and passports, all of which contain compromising personal information that can be used to steal your identity.
These smart cards should also be stored in the Faraday bags so that the information in them cannot be leaked or swiped by "digital pickpockets".
You can see how that works below:
So you can easily see how a faraday bag would be the perfect defense against these kinds of theft, especially while you are traveling.
We have learned there are many methods through which companies, governments, and thieves will try to take and use your location data as well as other important information about your life. Most importantly, we know that the way these companies make most of their money is by supplying free software to you in the hopes that they can get analytics out of it, which they will then sell to the highest bidder.
You can take proactive steps to prevent your personal information from falling into the hands of these individuals, but there is only one way to be absolutely certain your data will remain private, and that is to purchase a Faraday bag.
We at Billfodl have been manufacturing and selling privacy focused products for almost two years now, and our legions of loyal and satisfied customers prove that we have the best faraday bag on the market.
We hope you'll consider buying one and staying safe in the digital battlefield for your personal information.