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How to stop Android apps accessing your location

Whenever you install an app, you'll see a list of the permissions that it requires. People don't often bother reading this, but the apps you install can request access to your contacts, messages and even your location, among other things. If you're concerned about your privacy, you should be aware of which apps can keep track of where you are. Read on to find out how to stop apps from accessing your location.

It's totally reasonable that you would rather keep information about your location to yourself. It makes sense to grant some apps access to it – navigation tools, for instance – but there are plenty of the others that you might want to wrestle control away from.

There are two ways you can go about this: either using Android's built-in settings or using a dedicated permission control app.

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For Android 6.0 and up

For Android 4.3 - 5.1

For Android 6.0 and up

For all applications

In the General section of your smartphone's settings menu, you will find the Location settings. Just tap the toggle switch at the top to activate or deactivate as you wish. You should be mindful of the fact that this option will disable every app's ability to see your location, even ones you might want to use GPS for, like Google Maps. If that's a problem for you, check out the next option.

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Your General Settings menu and Location options will look similar. / © AndroidPIT

You could also change the Location mode to one of three options, to customize things even further:

  • High accuracy uses all of the options, which include GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and mobile networks.
  • Battery savings uses Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and mobile networks, but not GPS.
  • Device only uses only GPS, not Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or mobile networks.
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Ensure 'High accuracy' mode is toggled on for a good signal. / © AndroidPIT

For individual applications

Go to Settings, General, Apps, Configure apps or App settings, then App permissions. Then you will see a list of sensitive features of your phone (like the microphone, camera or your contacts list). Here you can select which apps have access to each, including Your location.

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Here, you can easily see which apps have permission and which do not. / © AndroidPIT

Tap Your location to select which apps you want to have permission to access your device's physical location. For apps like Google Maps or the Google App, it might be helpful to give them permission to access your location for convenience. But other apps might not be from a trusted source, or they may not even need your location. In that case, turn off location permission for these apps.

For Android 4.3 - 5.1

For all applications

Just like in newer versions of Android, you can change the Location settings for all applications with a single toggle switch. Head to Settings > More > Permission and tap the on/off toggle switch next to Location. When the switch is in the off position, your handset will stop collecting location data.

You can also change the method of location reporting that is used. Tap Location > Mode. You can then choose between three different modes according to your preferences (as shown in the image below).

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Your phone can use a variety of methods to determine your location. © AndroidPIT

If you scroll down through Location, you can see a list of all of the apps that have requested information about your location (see image below). You can then investigate the settings for individual apps to see if there is a way to disable location tracking.

Once your phone gets the Android Marshmallow update, you will have greater control over individual app permissions through the system settings.

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You can easily see which your installed apps are tracking your location. © AndroidPIT

As well as the apps you have installed, numerous Google services – such as Google Now – can make use of your location. This is something else you can control. Beneath the list of apps, tap Google Location Reporting and you'll see a list of all of the accounts you have set up on your handset.

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In addition to apps, your location can also be tracked by various Google services. © AndroidPIT

For each account, you can use the Location Reporting setting to allow or deny access to your location data, while the Location History section gives you the chance to wipe out data that has already been recorded.

For individual applications

While it is possible to disable location tracking in these older versions of Android, it is an all-or-nothing approach. As an alternative approach, AppOps is a free app that can be used to control location permission of individual apps.

There are several apps with similar names in Google Play, so be sure to install the right one. Fire up the app and you'll see a list of apps that make use of location information.

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AppOps lets you change the location-tracking permissions of individuals apps. © AndroidPIT

Tap the entry for any app in the list and you'll see a list of all of the permissions it uses.

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A setting toggle is all it takes to stop a particular app recording your location. © AndroidPIT

You can then toggle the Location setting to prevent that app from using location information. Repeat the process for as many apps as you like.

AppOps Install on Google Play

Do location tracking capabilities concern you, or are you happy to leave settings as they are? Have your say in the comments. 

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