Apple’s so-called IDFA (identifier for advertisers) is under fire once again after a European privacy advocate accused the iPhone maker of unlawfully installing the ad tracking function on its devices. Here’s how you can disable ad tracking.
Apple’s so-called IDFA (identifier for advertisers) is under fire once again after a European . [+] privacy advocate accused the iPhone maker of unlawfully installing the ad tracking function on its devices.
SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
When Apple launched iOS 14 this fall, it was already planning to give consumers more choice over whether to enable the IDFA—which allows advertisers to track your behavior and consumption preferences. But the iPhone maker delayed the new privacy feature after a major pushback from advertisers including Facebook.
Now, according to Bloomberg, there’s been pushback in the other direction, against the IDFA, by Noyb, a group founded by privacy activist Max Schrems. The group is complaining that because the trackers are placed on iPhones by default, consumers are unable to consent to them.
But Apple has hit back against the claims, calling them “factually inaccurate.”
In a statement, the iPhone maker said: “We look forward to making that clear to privacy regulators should they examine the complaint. Apple does not access or use the IDFA on a user’s device for any purpose.
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“Our aim is always to protect the privacy of our users and our latest software release, iOS 14, is giving users even greater control over whether or not they want to allow apps to track them by linking their information with data from third parties for the purpose of advertising, or sharing their information with data brokers.
“Our practices comply with European law and support and advance the aims of the GDPR and the ePrivacy Directive, which is to give people full control over their data.”
How to stop iPhone tracking
I recently wrote a useful guide on how to use Apple’s new privacy features in iOS 14. Within that, I included some steps detailing how you can prevent advertisers from tracking you ahead of the planned opt-in feature—which will hopefully become available in an updated version of iOS 14 in 2021.
So for now, in your Settings, go to Privacy > Tracking. Here you can turn off the ability to allow apps to request to track you across apps and websites owned by other companies.
In your Settings, go to Privacy, then Tracking. Here you can turn off the ability to allow apps to . [+] request to track you across apps and websites owned by other companies.
If you ask to “learn more” the text is a little confusing so I’ll explain it here. If you turn off the ability for apps to ask to track you, you also stop them from tracking you across apps by default.
As Apple explains, if you disable Allow Apps to ask to Track, “any app that attempts to ask for your permission will be blocked from asking and automatically informed that you have requested not to be tracked.”
In your privacy settings you can go to Analytics and Improvements and toggle off data sharing here.
IOS 14 added a bunch of cool new privacy and security features such as an Orange dot to show when your camera and mic are in use, and developers now have to offer a privacy “nutrition label” to show how your data is used.
I’m hopeful Apple will add the anti-tracking feature to iOS 14 soon. For now, why not go through and adjust your iPhone settings yourself.
How Do I Turn Off App Tracking? That’s a great question. After all, privacy is one of the hottest topics in tech today. And increasingly, it’s on consumer’s minds like never before. Luckily, iPhone owners now have a powerful new tool that allows them to recall their privacy from apps that love to snoop. It’s called App Tracking Transparency.
App Tracking Transparency is one of the major new features of iOS 14.5. It is also arguably the most powerful privacy tool Apple has ever released (and they’ve released a lot). But just what is App Tracking Transparency? It’s easy to see if you break the name down…
In short, many apps use myriad techniques to track users’ behaviors–what apps they open, where they do on the web–and metrics–their location, age, gender, interests, etc. Apps track this behavior of users via advertising identifiers they share with other third-party apps.
Previously, users have few ways to halt this tracking. And matter of fact, they were never asked for their consent to be tracked in the first place. That’s where Apple’s App Tracking Transparency comes in.
Now with iOS 14.5 and later (and iPadOS 14.5, watchOS 7.4, and tvOS 14.5 and later) apps will need to ask a user’s specific permission to track that user across the web and third-party apps. This is the “transparency” part of App Tracking Transparency. The user has the power to deny the app’s request. And if the user denies the app’s request, iOS now denies the app the ability to access the advertising identifier it needs to track that user.
How to Use iPhone’s App Tracking Transparency
Luckily, Apple made using App Tracking Transparency (this is Apple, right? Everything is simple). After installing iOS 14.5, when you launch an app you may see a new App Tracking Transparency popup appear if the app wants permission to track you for advertising purposes.
This new popup will appear ONLY if the app wants to track you. Apps that’ don’t want to track your by accessing your user identifier will not have the popup appear.
The popup will read: “Allow [app name] to track your activity across other companies’ apps and websites?”
You then have to options:
- Tap “Ask App Not to Track,” which will block the app from accessing your advertising identifier.
- Tap “Allow,” which will allow the app to access your advertising identifier.
And that’s it as far as how giving or withholding your consent works with App Tracking Transparency.
Should You Let Apps Track You?
Whether or not you want to allow an app access to your advertising identifier is up to you. If you do allow the app access, you’ll see more personalized ads. Is that a benefit to you?
Here’s how I think of it: if you trust the app with your data and use the app a lot, you should allow it access to your advertising identifier. This will help support the developer financially.
But, if an app or the company has been shown to play fast and loose with user data–if they’ve had data breeches or just don’t seem to care about user privacy that much, why give them access to more of your data? In that case, don’t allow the app access to your advertising identifier.
How To See Which Apps Are Tracking You
While the App Tracking Transparency popup is how most people will interact with the new feature, there is a way to see which apps have asked your permission to track you and which you’ve given access to do so. There’s also a way to revoke access or approve access after your original choice. Here’s how:
- Open the Settings app.
- Tap Privacy.
- Tap Tracking. Here’s you’ll see a list of all apps that have asked to track you. If the switch next to their app name is GREEN, you’ve given them permission. If the switch is WHITE, you’ve rejected their access. You can toggle the switch to green or white any time to give or revoke access.
- Alternately, you can disable the App Tracking Transparency popup altogether by toggling the “Allow Apps To Request To Track” switch to WHITE. If you do this, you will no longer see the App Tracking Transparency popup AND all apps that as iOS permission for your advertising identifier will be automatically denied. Automatically denied apps will then appear in the list of apps below, which you can then grant or revoke access manually.
How Apps Track You – Explained In Two Minutes
There are myriad ways and reasons apps love to track users (it’s how most of them make their money–off of your private, personal data). One of the best, more concise explainers for this that we’ve seen is in a short two-minute video Apple recently released. As the video states:
When you’re using apps on your iPhone, you may start to see this. It’s the new App Tracking Transparency prompt. It’s a feature that gives you a choice. A choice on how apps use and share your data. Data like your age, location, health information, spending habits, and your browsing history to name a few.
This data can help to map your runs, tag your photos, or track your location, so a nearby store can offer discounts. But some apps have trackers embedded in them that are taking more data than they need. Sharing it with third parties, like advertisers and data brokers. They collect thousands of pieces of information about you to create a digital profile that they sell to others.
These third parties use your profile to target you with ads…and they can also use it to predict and influence your behaviors and decisions. This has been happening without your knowledge or permission. Your information is for sale. You have become the product.
That’s why iPhone users will now be asked a single, simple question: Allow apps to track you or not? Maybe you’re okay giving an app your email or location, so they can share your data with others to personalize ads or build a profile about you.
And if you’re not? Well, that’s what the prompt is for. Whatever you choose is up to you. But at Apple, we believe that you should have a choice. App Tracking Transparency. A simple new feature that puts your data back in your control.
March 12, 2015
One of the largest telecommunications companies in the world is now offering a unique new ‘feature’.
For “only” $29 per month, AT&T is promising customers of its new broadband service that it won’t track their search and browsing history.
First of all, privacy shouldn’t be a privilege that you’d have to pay for. Second, how can anyone be sure that they’ll keep their promise?
After all, telecom companies and Internet service providers have a long history of willfully handing over your sensitive private data to either the highest bidder or the heavy hand of the government.
Here are easy steps to ensure that your search and browsing history remains private and is not sold off to advertisers who then serve you targeted ads.
If you’re an Android user, you can turn off Google’s “AdID” system by going to your Google Settings app (Note—NOT to your phone’s settings; you’ll probably have to look under your full list of apps to find Google Settings app).
Within the Google Settings app tap the “Ads” section and on the new screen you’ll see the option to “Opt out of interest-based ads”. You can also reset your advertising ID afterwards, which will make you appear as a new user.
Within iOS, go into Settings, find Privacy, and then scroll all the way down and tap Advertising.
There, you can slide and turn on the button “Limit Ad Tracking”, which will prevent ad companies from tracking your phone usage and serving you targeted ads.
Just as with Android you can also tap on the “Reset Advertising Identifier”, which will delink your anonymized identifier with your personal data on Apple’s servers.
You can further limit your tracking by turning off location-based ads on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.
Make sure you pass this information along to your friends and family as well.
You probably know your Android phone or iPhone can pinpoint your location for GPS, local search, or the weather. Hopefully, you also know that means your phone keeps track of everywhere you go, all the time. Don’t be alarmed—it’s the trade-off you make for the features you get. If it makes you uncomfortable, here’s how to opt-out of location-tracking on Android and iOS.
Managing Location Services on Android
If you’re an Android user, Google’s location services are broken into three main features : Location Accuracy, Location History, and Location Sharing.
- Location Accuracy is the feature that gives apps like Google Now, Google Maps, Foursquare, Twitter, and even your camera app access to your position. Whenever an app shows you something nearby, suggests local businesses, or helps you find the closest gas station, it’s using Location Accuracy. If you leave it on, your phone will triangulate your exact position via GPS, wifi, mobile networks, and other device sensors. Turn it off, and your device will only use GPS to figure out where you are.
- Location History is the feature that keeps track of where you’ve been, and any addresses you type in or navigate to.
- Location Sharing is self-explanatory, but here’s a quick reminder: This feature allows others to see where you are in real-time. You have to specifically set this up in Google Maps for your friends to see your location; they can’t just ping your device by default (obviously).
To disable Location Accuracy in Android:
- Pull up Settings
- Tap on Location
- Disable the “Use location” button.
- Also tap on “Google Location Accuracy” and set that feature to “Off.”
The Location screen is where you’ll be able to set specific location permissions for apps, like whether you want an app to always be able to access your device’s location or only when you’re using said app. You can also turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth scanning, if you want to make it harder for apps and services to pinpoint your exact location.
This screen is also where you can disable Google’s Location History, if you don’t want it to keep a record of where you’ve been, as well as your Android’s Location Sharing.
(Note: We tested this on a Google Pixel 3; the exact navigation / names might be slightly different for your specific Android device.)
To delete your existing Location History in Android:
- Visit Google’s Activity Controls (which is where you can also disable Location History tracking account-wide)
- Click “Manage Activity”
- Click on the tiny trash can icon in the lower-right corner of the screen. It looks like this:
- Confirm that you want to delete all of your location history, and then click the big red “Delete Location History” link.
You can also have Google automatically delete older location history on your behalf—useful if you want to use the feature to track your recent whereabouts, but don’t want to keep a permanent record. Within the Google Maps Timeline , click on the gear icon to pull up your settings.
Select “Automatically delete Location History,” and then pick whichever timeline you want:
If you’re on your phone instead of a computer, you can delete your location history by pulling up Google Maps, clicking on the hamburger icon, selecting “Your Timeline,” tapping on the triple-dot icon in the upper-right corner, tapping on Settings, and scrolling down until you see the “Delete all Location History” option. This is also where you’ll set up automatic deletion, if you’re interested, and where you’ll turn off Location Services for your device or Location History for your account
To stop sharing your location with certain people
- Pull up Google’s Location Sharing settings
- Remove people to eliminate their ability to see your location in real time.
If you’re on your phone instead of a computer, open Google Maps, tap on the hamburger icon, and tap on Location Sharing. You’ll be able to add and remove your friends as you see fit.
You can now disable Verizon’s tracking ‘supercookie’ on your smartphone, but you’ll have to be proactive and follow a few simple steps.
Back in January, Verizon Wireless customers discovered that the company was tracking their mobile Web browsing via a “supercookie” built into their smartphones, which did not disappear even after clearing one’s browser cache. Although Verizon did not seem to put this information to any harmful (or even inconvenient) effect, many users still saw it as an invasion of privacy. Now users can get rid of the supercookie, but they’ll have to be proactive and follow a few simple steps.
First, you should know that the supercookie is enabled by default. Unless you have already disabled it, it is still active on your phone, gathering your online habits and transmitting them back to Verizon in order to give advertisers a better profile of you. If such practices don’t bother you, there’s no need to deactivate the supercookie; indeed, you may get a relevant ad or two the next time you browse the Web on your phone.
Otherwise, you have three options for getting the supercookie off your system: Using the Verizon website, using the My Verizon app on your phone or calling Verizon directly.
On the Web
Here’s how to disable the supercookie using an Internet browser:
1. Go to the Verizon Wireless website.
2. Sign into your account.
You will need both a mobile number and a password. If this is your first time logging in, you’ll have to register. Just click the Register link, and the website will walk you through the process.
3. Click on View Profile, then Manage Privacy Settings.
You’ll have to scroll all the way down; Privacy Settings are very well hidden.
4. Scroll down to Relevant Mobile Advertising.
Find your phone line and select “No, I don’t want to participate in Relevant Mobile Advertising.” Then click Save Changes. You’re done!
My Verizon App
Here’s how to disable the supercookie using the My Verizon app:
1. Open the My Verizon app.
2. Select the Profile tab.
3. Tap on Manage Privacy Settings.
You may have to reenter your password here if you have not used the app in a while.
4. Select Relevant Mobile Advertising.
You may see a screen explaining what Relevant Mobile Advertising is. If so, click Continue (and “Do not show this again” if you don’t want to see it again).
5. Tap on No to opt-out the desired lines.
Then click Save, and you’re good to go.
On the Phone
For those who prefer old-school measures, you can also call Verizon at 1-866-211-0874 and follow the pre-recorded instructions.
Google tracks your location via location history, web and app activity, and device-level location services. In fact, even your IP address can be geographically mapped to know your general location. Therefore, merely turning off GPS won’t help much unless you tweak certain settings on your device. Here’s a quick guide on how you can stop Google from tracking your location.
Stop Google From Tracking Your Location
Disable Location History, Web & App Activity
To entirely stop Google from tracking your location, you need to turn off location history, web & app activity, as follows:
- Open the browser and head to https://myactivity.google.com/.
- Log in with your Google account if not already.
- Click on Activity Controls on the sidebar at left.
- Here, disable the toggle for Web & App Activity.
- Click on Pause when prompted.
- Similarly, disable the toggle for Location History.
- Click on Pause to confirm.
With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored by Google. When you turn off Location History for your Google Account, it’s disabled for all devices associated with that Google Account.
Similarly, when Web & App activity is turned off, Google will no longer save your searches, things you do on Google products like Maps, your location, IP address, and more.
You can further delete your old data using the ‘Delete Activity by’ option on the My Activity dashboard. It lets you delete your activity from last hour, last day, all-time or custom range. You can also filter activities based on services and delete them selectively from your Google account.
Disable Google Location Accuracy
Another step is to disable location accuracy on your Android phone. When the feature is turned on, your phone can triangulate your exact position using GPS, WiFi, mobile networks, and onboard sensors. This information is used by apps like Google Now and Google Maps to show nearby places accurately.
You can disable it on your phone by going to Settings > Location > Google Location Accuracy. Once disabled, your phone will use only the GPS to find your location. This may affect the location accuracy in several apps.
If you’re using an iPhone, you can stop Apple from keeping track of your location by turning off Significant Locations in iOS settings. Here’s a detailed guide on the same.
This was all about how you can stop Google from tracking your location. Apart from the steps above, you can also limit or disable location access for specific apps in your phone’s privacy settings. Doing so will restrict location tracking on your phone to a huge extent.
ORLANDO, Fla. – According to Pew Research, 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone. Both iPhones and Androids come with a preinstalled app that tracks your location.
In the park, at home, at the store, your phone tracks your every movement and everything you do on it, and you might not even know it. How many privacy policies have you read?
For Android owners, all your phone data is sent to Google including how long your call was and where you were at the time. It’s connected to your Gmail account. And for iPhone users, the same information is tracked, but it stays on your phone.
Go to the settings app on your phone to location service and turn off tracking. You can also go to individual apps in the settings app to disable location services and other tracking information.
To stop Google from tracking you, go to your account, pick personal info and privacy, and click go to my activity to erase some of the data. Protecting your information.
Contributor(s) to this news report include: Keon Broadnax, Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer and Editor.
Your smartphone tracks your location for all sorts of useful things—driving navigation, updating the weather forecast, and even live traffic updates. However, if you’d rather not have Google and Apple tracking that information—not to mention having it available on your phone for thieves to find—here’s how you can turn off location tracking.
Location tracking actually provides lots of useful things to us, but while Google and Apple collect all that data anonymously, it’s still stored on your phone (and in Apple’s case, your computer). Anyone with the right tools could easily find out where you’ve been with your phone over a significant period of time, so if you’re worried about this, you may want to turn this features off. Here’s how.
Disable Location Caching on Android
Luckily, Android’s location tracking is actually an opt-in feature. You may or may not have enabled it when you first set up your phone. To find out, head to Settings > Location and Security, and uncheck “Use Wireless Networks”. This will make applications like Maps a bit slower to grab your current location, and it won’t be quite as accurate, but Google won’t be collecting any location data, nor will it be stored on your phone thereafter.
However, if you want to clear the previously cached locations from your phone, you’ll need to rooted your device . Then after installing the free Location Cache app, you can view a map of your tracked locations on it, as well as clear them from your phone and disable the cache with one tap.
- Account Settings
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Consumer intervention is more useful now than waiting for government action, experts say
Your phone probably knows everywhere you go.
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The apps on your phone are tracking you when you go to the grocery store, when you drive to work, and when you travel to doctor’s appointments.
Security experts have long expected various companies track users through apps, but recent investigations from The New York Times and the Associated Press have shown how invasive these practices are. This week, The New York Times purchased anonymized data from a third-party vendor, de-anonymized it, and used it to show how companies track people throughout their days.
Apps location-sharing features revealed intimate details about people’s comings and goings, from when they went to the doctor to when they exercised. More than 1,000 apps have location-sharing capabilities, according to a 2018 report from mobile analysis firm MightySignal, including 1,200 in the Google Android store and 200 on Apple iOS. Even apps that have no apparent connection to location will automatically track users’ whereabouts and share that information with other companies.
And turning off location tracking doesn’t necessarily help. Earlier this year an AP investigation showed that Google GOOG, +0.63% tracks users’ locations, even when they’ve turned off the tracking features. These revelations come as Congress grills major tech companies about their privacy policies and moves closer towards creating data privacy laws.
Apple AAPL, +1.12% and Google have started taking measures to force developers to collect less data. Android recently limited its apps to collecting data “a few times an hour” rather than continuously, and Apple has prevented some apps from collecting data at all. But more changes are needed in corporate policy, said David Ginsburg, vice president of marketing at Santa Clara, Calif. cybersecurity firm Cavirin.
“With 50-plus apps on the typical phone, the average user is no longer able to maintain control. You can turn everything off, but is that a solution?” he said. “A first step must be a reset of privacy policies, where the default will be not to share any data.”
He said legislators should enforce rules similar to California’s new privacy law, which allows consumers to prohibit companies from selling their data to third parties. That could be the only path to protecting users’ privacy, because it is not in the commercial interest of corporations like Google and Apple to limit data used by these apps, said Rishi Bhargava, Co-founder at Demisto, a Cupertino, Calif.-based provider of security technology company.
“Industries need an external impetus in the form of robust and enforceable regulations to start this journey towards security,” he said. “Sadly, leaving data privacy and security up to the moral compass of individual companies is bound to fail because the short-termist focus on shareholders and profit doesn’t leave much space for security concerns.”
While the governments and corporations are slow to introduce lasting solutions, consumers have the means to take action themselves, said Mark Weinstein, a privacy expert and founder of social media platform MeWe.
“Most troubling is that you can’t see the creep,” he said. “The myriad of companies (and government agencies) that can and do know where you are all the time are unseen — you don’t see the creep peering over our shoulders.”
Google and Apple did not respond immediately to requests for comment.
A Google spokesperson said in a statement to AP after its investigation on location-tracking that “there are a number of different ways that Google may use location to improve people’s experience, including: Location history, web and app activity, and through device-level location services. We provide clear descriptions of these tools, and robust controls so people can turn them on or off, and delete their histories at any time.”
Turn off location services
Under “settings” and “privacy” on both Android and Apple, users can turn off location services entirely or choose to turn them off for select apps. Very few apps actually require location data to function, Weinstein noted.
Even when using Google maps, for example, users do not have to keep location turned on. You can instead type in the origin and destination addresses manually to find your way without real-time tracking.
Delete your apps
Some security experts have advocated going as far as deleting all apps from your phone. If you aren’t ready to use your phone only for texts and calls, you can start by deleting just unnecessary apps from the device. If you have an app you don’t use, you’re essentially carrying around a tracking device for no reason, Weinstein said.
“Most concerning isn’t that marketers can know in every moment exactly where you are, where you are going, and target you,” he said. “Most concerning is that governments around the world also can readily access this information about where you are and what you are doing.”
When you add a new app on your phone, deny its access to your location when it prompts you to, Weinstein said. Another option: Apple allows users to bookmark webpages on the homescreen of the phone. Instead of downloading a weather app that tracks your every move, bookmark your favorite weather page to the phone’s homepage itself and click on it when you’d like to check the weather, or other location-related information. Apple’s built-in weather app can also be uninstalled.