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Can Apps Track You with Location Services Turned off?

Uber and Foursquare track app users even when the app is closed. Can these types of apps also track users with location services turned off?

Fortunately, tracking smartphones with location services turned off is impossible for now, but you should still be aware of the many other ways in which applications collect and share your data. Some of these apps go beyond the norm. One way to protect a malicious app or thief from accessing your data and collecting private information is to activate Advanced Protection:

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In 2016, an Uber app update allowed the company to track users with the app closed, up to five minutes after customers were dropped off by drivers. A 2014 Foursquare app update accessed user “background location” even when not in use, in order to provide users with better notifications. With these recent events in mind, the idea that apps might be able to track smartphone users even while location services are turned off doesn’t sound quite so crazy.

Read More: Tips for Detecting and Avoiding Spam Emails

Who Sees Your Location Data?

When smartphone users allow applications to access their location data, this data is then shared roughly 5,000 times within two weeks. Numerous applications, from Weather and Clock to Waze and MapMyRun, and even services such as Setting Time Zones, rely on this data to alter what you see. While this location information is most often shared with advertisers, it can also be used for more serious means. On the off chance that your data might be given to a credit reporting agency or even to your insurance company, why take the chance?

How Apps Track Users

Whether apps are using your location to provide better notifications or to better target their ads, these practices can often feel invasive. When collecting user location data, applications rely on GPS, Wi-Fi, or the phone’s cellular network to track your phone. Apps that rely on a smartphone’s cellular network to track location are particularly troubling because they face no obligation to explicitly solicit permission from users, unlike apps using GPS to track.

Fortunately, turning off location services disables location tracking with each of these three methods. By restricting location permission for the apps looking to track location, users are better able to control their online privacy.

How to Turn off Location Services

Turning off location reporting and location history is an easy step that Android users can take to protect their location information. To do so, users should open the “App Drawer” on their smartphone and enter “Settings.” Once in settings, users should go to “Location” and then “Google Location Settings.” By switching the slider off for both “Location Reporting” and “Location History,” none of the phone’s apps will be able to access or share location data.

On top of these simple steps, users should also look to delete their phone’s location cache. They can do so by tapping “Delete Location History” under the “Location History” tab. Or, you can save yourself some trouble and use Quick Cleanup to remove cache and junk files from all of your apps instantly: