Unless you are on Android Marshmallow already, you don’t have the granular control over the apps permissions. It’s either all or nothing, and if you don’t want an app to access your location, you just don’t install it.
Privacy for convenience trade-off has created an endless slavery loop that lets the tech giants capitalize on human vice – laziness. If you mind your privacy and care to limit the big brother in its snooping activities, you might want to disable the location tracking. You don’t have to mind Google collecting your private data, but you might have a particularly curious colleague, boyfriend or a neighbor you suspect of targeting your accounts. Why, you might have already been hacked and now you think of that backlog of locations, search histories and photos you had in your account. Besides the big G, there is a horde of apps and games that access your location information, and their practices are quite often shady in the least. Disabling location tracking is one of the first things you should do to protect your privacy, and here is how you can do it on your Android device.
To stop Google from tracking your location
To stop Google from tracking your location, go to Settings → Personal → Location and toggle it off, if you don’t want Google to track your whereabouts.
To stop individual apps from tracking your location
For Marshmallow running devices, go here – Alexandra explains the step-by-step process.
For older Android versions, there is no easy way. You can’t see a list of location tracking apps as such, at least in the older versions of Android, so you will either need to go through your list of apps one by one in the Applications Manager, or install a third-party app that analyzes your apps permissions.
- MyPermissions – Privacy Shield is one of the many apps on Google Play that does just that. Note: do not expect to see a management panel – the app only analyzes your apps and gives you a detailed and consolidated view of which apps track what. The location tracking part is even set apart for you to see right away. Other tabs show which apps access your photos, which apps can post on your behalf and the like. You can tap “trust” or you can tap “report.” That’s it. You can then uninstall an app you think is invading your privacy.
- There is also AppOps, but it no longer works for Android 4.4.2. It should work for Android 4.3 and 4.4 and 5, but it does not even show on the list of the available apps for my Android 5.1. Yet, you should try it because if it works for your device, it should give you that power of revoking individual permissions from individual apps.
- Advanced Task Manager Pro has AppOps add-on for Android 4.3.
However, there is a radical solution to this problem – root your device (here is how to) and enjoy a wealth of root-only apps like X Privacy Installer that grant you the granular control over your apps permissions. Yet, not everyone is savvy enough to go through the process of rooting their devices. Some even want to un-root them.
So, the radical solution would be to install a third-party app not approved by Google Play, yet – MoboClean. It lets you revoke individual permissions for your apps, but it does so the hard way. To skip the technicalities, this app basically uninstalls the app you wish to “renew” (that’s how it’s called by the developer). Then, MoboClean injects a wrapper into its code. This wrapper lets you disable certain permissions. The downside of this is all your app data will be reset, so you will have to log into all of your accounts again. To use MoboClean, you will need to enable Unknown Sources in your settings, which lets you install apk files that don’t come from Google Play or Amazon.
Once launched, it will generate a list of installed apps. Select the ones for which you would like to edit permissions and tap Purify. From there, MoboCleaner will work with the apps’ installer injecting its wrapper. You will need to approve the process for each individual app, but after that you will be able to revoke the privacy-invasive permissions.
Note: Caution advised before using a third-party application with such extensive permissions. I would wait till the project goes open source and see what the coders say about the magic wrapper.