Location tracking can be very handy – it comes in handy when an app can tell you, for example, where the restaurants or gas stations are nearby – but it's also a privacy issue. Would you like all your walks to be registered by Google? Do you feel comfortable knowing that Mark Zuckerberg's henchmen always know where you are? (Well, not that Mark Zuckerberg has minions, but you know what I mean.)
This article will teach you how to stop location tracking on your Android phone and clear your location history from your operating system and some of the most popular apps. As always, be aware that Android versions can be different and many manufacturers also use overlays that can change the position of various commands. However, they should be similar enough that you can find your way around. I used a Pixel phone with Android 10 for these instructions.
Stop Google from following you.
You probably know that Google can track your location and movements through the Google Maps app. However, you may not find that your Android phone is tracking your movements and activities through several other built-in apps as well.
If you really don't want your phone to track your movements and activities, you can turn off tracking for everyone (well, most). You just need to be aware that you will likely make many of your apps (e.g., ridesharing, weather apps, and of course mapping apps) less usable, or in some cases completely unusable.
Stop Google tracking with a browser
- Go to https://myactivity.google.com/.
- From the menu on the left, choose Activity Control.
- Scroll down through the various activities and select one that you want to disable.
You can turn off tracking using Google's activity controls.
This can take a while, especially if you want to research what will affect you. The listed activities that show your location include "Web and App Activity" (which covers everything you've done with Google apps and services) and "Location History" (where you went with your device). You will likely want to check "Include audio recordings" under "Web and app activity".
While you're here, you can also clear "Device Info" (information about contacts, calendars, etc.), "YouTube History" (including search and watch history), and "Ad Personalization" (usage) from your history to choose which ads you like want to see).
You have prevented further data from being collected. At this point, you may want to delete all or some of the information that you have already collected.
- Go back to the "My Activity" page and click on "Delete Activity By" in the left menu.
- You will get a pop-up where you can delete your activity based on the time period: last hour, last day, "All Times" (in other words all dates), or "Custom Range" for a specific date range.
A popup where you can delete your activity based on the time period.
- Choosing either "All Times" or "Custom Scope" will allow you to filter this information based on the services (like Ads, Chrome, Google Play Store, etc.). When you are done, click "Next".
You can filter your data depending on the service.
- You will then be given a preview of some of the activities that will be deleted. If you agree, select "Delete".
The last step before deleting your activity.
Stop Google tracking on an Android device
- Go to Settings. Find "Accounts" and tap your Google email account. If more than one account is listed, tap the account you want to change.
- Tap on "Google Account".
- Scroll down to "Manage Your Information and Personalization" and select it.
- Look under "Activity Controls". As with the browser version, you can deactivate or pause the monitoring of various activities here.
- For more control over your activities, you can scroll down and select "Manage Activity Controls". You now have access to a page very similar to the Activity Control webpage.
Turn location tracking on and off in the Quick Settings system tray
If you want to toggle location tracking on or off as needed, you can do that too. One way to arrange this is to use the Quick Settings taskbar (which you see when you swipe down from the top of the screen). The compartment contains a variety of icons for the most commonly used Android functions. There is a "Location" icon that you can use to toggle the location feature on and off.
- Swipe down from the top of the screen. You should see a number of icons for things like bluetooth, wifi, flashlight, etc. This is your quick settings bar. Look for the location icon (it usually looks like an upside-down drop of water).
- Not there? Swipe down from the bottom of this line of icons. You will see a few more.
- Still missing? Look for a pencil icon. On a pixel, it's at the bottom of the tray, but on some Android user interfaces, it's at the top. Tap the pen and the menu will continue to open. You can now see all available symbols. Make sure that the location icon is in the easily visible part of the compartment.
- If your location icon is in the lower pane, press and hold and drag it into the visible group.
You can now quickly swipe down from the top of the screen and toggle the location on and off. For example, if you want to use Google Maps for directions, you can turn the location on and then turn it off again, and I'm done
Stop tracking location on Android devices
If you don't feel the need to stop Google from recording all of your activity and just want to keep the phone from recording your location, it's easy – as long as you pay attention to the details:
- Swipe down from the top of the screen to see the Quick Settings menu, and then long-press the location icon. Swipe down, tap the Settings icon, then choose Location.
- You are now on the "Location" page. Find the "Use location" feature above and turn it off.
You'd think that's it right? But you are wrong What is meant by “use location” in Android depends on which sensors follow the device's location: In addition to GPS, this can also be Wi-Fi, cellular networks or other sensors. Before exiting this page, look a little further down at the Advanced button and tap on it. They have four categories that you can turn on or off:
- Google Emergency Location Service. This will tell the emergency services where you are if there is a problem. For example, when your car pulls off the road and the ambulance has to find you. You can turn this off if you want, but read the fine print: "If ELS is turned off, your carrier may still send device location during an emergency call."
- Google location accuracy. This uses Wi-Fi and other services to determine your location. If you want to turn off Use Location, make sure it is turned off too.
- Google location history. This will take you to a page where you can stop your device from collecting your location history. This does not remove what has already been saved. Instructions on how to do this are provided a little later in this article.
- Google location sharing. If you share your location with family or friends, you can manage it here.
But wait, there's more! On the Location page, tap the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth scanning link. With two toggles, you can tell whether the apps and services on your phone can search for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi networks, even if those features are turned off. You may also want to turn these off.
You can adjust your location settings on the Location page.
Select "Advanced" for access to various location permissions.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth scanning can be disabled.
Turn off location tracking for a specific app
You can find out which apps are actually using location tracking and just turn them off for those you think you don't need.
- Go to the "Location" page (by long-pressing the "Location" icon in the "Quick Settings" system tray).
- Tap on "App Permission".
- Here you will find a list of all your current apps that have permission to access your location either at any time or only while you are using it. Tap any option to change the permission to either always allow, allow only while in use, or deny.
If you disable permissions in the Android settings, sometimes the app will continually try to get you to restore that permission. It's irritating, but if you don't say, "No, leave me alone" on the app, then you'll either have to live with it or get another app.
On your location page, select "App Authorization".
Tap the app whose permissions you want to change.
Select the type of location permission you want to grant.
Clear your location history
While you can turn off location tracking in your Android phone's settings, it takes a bit of a hassle to remove that history once a service has collected your location information. If you want to clear your location history, you need to go to Google first. After that, apps that collect this information include Facebook and Twitter.
Clear your Google location history on Android
While you can delete the location history collected for your Google Timeline in the "My Activity" section (see above), you can also easily remove it in Google Maps.
- Go to your Google Maps app.
- In the top left, tap your profile icon.
- Tap "Your Timeline".
- Pick the three dots in the upper right corner. Tap on "Settings and privacy".
- Scroll down to Clear All Location History. You will get a pop-up asking you to check a box that says you understand that some of your apps may not be working properly. Check the box and choose Delete.
Clear your Google location history in a browser
- Go to https://www.google.com/maps.
- Tap the three parallel lines in the upper left corner of the side area. (If you don't see the control panel, look for the little arrow in the top left corner and click it.) Choose Your Timeline.
- Look for the gear icon at the bottom right of the screen. Click on it, then click "Clear All Location History".
Find the gear on your timeline to clear your location history.
- As with the mobile app, a pop-up will appear asking you to check a box that says you understand that some of your apps may not work properly. Check the box and choose Clear Location History.
You will be asked to confirm deleting the history.
Clear your location history on Facebook
Facebook keeps a separate history of your locations. If you want to clear this history, you can do so through the mobile app or the browser.
Use the Android app
- In the Facebook app, tap the hamburger (three parallel lines) in the top right corner.
- Scroll down and tap "Settings & Privacy".
- Tap on "Settings".
- Scroll down and tap on "Location" (under the "Privacy" heading). This will take you to the "Location Settings" page.
- Tap "Location History" to go to the next page where you can allow or deny Facebook permission to save your location history.
- To delete your existing location history, tap View Location History and enter your password (if prompted). Tap the three dots in the top right corner. You can now either "Delete this day" or "Delete all location histories". Tap on the latter. You will be asked if you are sure. If so, tap OK.
- Back on the "Location Settings" page, you can tap "Location Access" to turn off location access or to enable it only while using the app.
Use a browser
- In Facebook, click the little arrow next to the notification icon in the top right corner. Click on "Settings & Privacy"> "Privacy Links".
- Click on "Manage Location Settings".
Under "Privacy" select the option "Manage location settings".
- On the Location Settings page, click the View Location History button.
You can view, clear, and stop recording your history on the Location Settings page.
- Then click on the three dots in the upper right corner. As with the mobile app, you can now either "Delete This Day" or "Delete All Location History".
Clear your day's history or all of your history.
- You can also turn your location history on or off for your mobile devices on the Location Settings page.
Clear your location history on Twitter
Twitter makes it relatively easy to turn off location tracking in the Android app.
- At the top left of the home screen, tap your personal icon.
- Tap on "Settings and privacy".
- Tap on "Privacy and Security".
- Scroll down until you see "Exact Location" and tap on it. You can then uncheck the box that gives Twitter permission to collect your GPS and other location information.
You can also clear your Twitter location history, but only in your browser.
- Go to your Twitter account, click on the three dots in the left column and on "Settings and privacy".
Select "Settings and privacy".
- Click on "Privacy and Security" in the menu on the left. Select "Location Information".
Click on "Location Information".
- If you've checked the "Add location information to my Tweets" option, uncheck that option. Then click "Clear All Location Information". And if it asks: Yes, you are sure.
You can stop adding location information and delete all saved information.
Update August 25, 2020, 2:37 p.m. ET: This article was originally published on April 12, 2019. It has been updated to include the update from Android 9 to Android 10, as well as changes to various web-based applications.