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AVG Signal Blog Privacy Privacy Tips Phone Tracking — What It Is and How to Prevent It
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Who is tracking my phone?

Smartphones track your location and activity using your IP address, Bluetooth technology, and GPS services. Smartphone tracking lets your apps provide you basic services, like the ability to find your location on Google Maps or search for restaurants nearby. This type of tracking is generally benign and often helpful.

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    Advertisers and companies also use smartphone tracking, but for commercial purposes — to understand their market better and deliver customers better goods and services. If you’ve noticed ads related to products or questions you’ve been searching for, that’s because businesses use tracking to target people with ads.

    Advertisers use cookies in your web browser that track your activity, like whether you clicked an ad or how long you looked at it before scrolling. That data is aggregated across millions of users who are then segmented and served targeted ads based on the various cohorts they’re bucketed into.

    How else is phone tracking data used and how much do ad companies know about you? While Facebook likey isn’t listening to your conversations, it does know when you visited the site, from what location, how long you stayed there, and what you did. And Google has seemingly limitless data about how everyone uses the web. All of this tracking helps these companies create “advertising profiles” that they can use to target their ads.

    Facebook and Google earn billions of dollars a year selling your advertising profile. While that may be creepy, there is also a real danger in your information leaking through these channels, like the recent Facebook data breach. When that happens, hackers can get a detailed picture of your browsing activity.

    If you want to stop phone tracking, you can change your phone settings, switch to a private browser, configure your app permissions more carefully, or use a VPN. We’ll dive into those methods below. For now, install AVG Secureline VPN to encrypt your connection and stop your phone from being tracked.

    Can someone track my phone?

    Yes, family and friends can track your phone if you use location tracking services like Find My on your iPhone. Advertisers and companies can use web tracking technology like cookies to track your phone and online browsing activity. And parents, jealous partners, and even state-sponsored hackers can use spyware to track your phone.

    How to tell if your phone is being tracked

    It’s pretty easy to tell if someone is tracking your phone location. Your iPhone will show you whenever your location services, camera, or microphone have recently been used. Most of the time, it’s not someone snooping but simply an app that you recently used.

    How to find out if your iPhone is being tracked

    At the top of the homescreen, near the battery icon, look for the following:

    • An arrow means that Location Services has just been used (or is being used)

    • An orange dot means that your microphone has been accessed

    • A green dot means that the camera has been accessed

    A view of iPhone's home screen. An arrow in the upper-right is shown, indicating that location services has recently been used.

    To see which app is accessing your camera or microphone, slide your finger up from the bottom of the screen to bring up the Control Center. At the top, you’ll see the app that accessed the camera or microphone (green for camera and microphone, orange for just microphone).

    A view of iPhone's control center, which is showing at the top a green icon with "Camera, recently" next to it, indicating that the camera app recently used the camera.

    If you just used that app, then don’t worry about the green dot. But if you haven’t used the app recently — or if it’s an app you’ve never heard of before — then it’s time to check your security settings, because you might have a spyware app on your phone.

    How to find out if your Android is being tracked

    If you want to know if your Android phone is being tracked, look for performance issues such as a rapidly depleting battery or an unusually hot phone. Here’s how to check for performance issues that could indicate your phone being tracked:

    1. Open Settings > Battery and device care.

      Open Android Battery and device care to view all battery usage.
    2. Tap Battery > View details.

      Tap View Details in Battery and device care settings to see your Android's battery usage for each installed app.

    Here, you can see how much battery each app is using. If something looks unusual, check online to see if it’s a legit app. If an app looks unfamiliar and you can’t figure out what it is, it might be tracking you.

    How to stop someone from tracking your phone

    The best way to block phone tracking is to use a VPN. But you can also change a few settings on your phone or switch to a different browser to stop tracking. You can hide your location via settings, block ad tracking with a dedicated private browser, and encrypt all of your internet traffic with a VPN.

    Here are the best ways to prevent your phone from being tracked:

    Turn off location services (iOS and Android)

    To stop apps from tracking your location, turn off your location services — but remember that certain apps like Google Maps won’t work as well. If you don’t want to completely disable location tracking, you can block it only on specific apps.

    Remember that if your location services are turned off, your phone can still be tracked through your IP address. You’ll need to download a VPN to be completely invisible on the web.

    How to block location tracking on an iPhone

    Go to Settings > Privacy and tap Location Services.

    You can toggle off Location Services for all apps or scroll down and turn off location services only for specific apps.
    A view of the location services page in iPhone.

    How to block location tracking on Android

    Here’s how to block location tracking on an Android phone:

    Go to Settings > Location, and toggle the location button to Off.

    Switch the Location toggle to Off to ensure location services are off for all apps.

    That will turn off all location tracking on an Android. You can manage location tracking permissions for specific apps by tapping Location services in your location settings (see the screenshot above).

    Use a private browser

    A private browser like Tor or AVG Secure Browser offers much more anonymity on the web than a normal browser. Private browsers block many cookies and other temporary internet files, block ads, force websites to use HTTPS encryption, and disable tracking scripts.

    If you don’t want your phone tracked, use one of the best security and privacy browsers. Also, check out our guide to the best privacy apps for Android, and if you’re an iPhone user, we have a list of the best security apps for iPhone.

    Use a VPN

    A VPN encrypts your communications and hides your location, making you pretty much invisible to all third parties like advertisers, companies, your ISP, and hackers. By connecting you to the internet through a secure and encrypted tunnel, a VPN keeps all your web activity private, and it stops anyone from tracking your phone or how you use it.

    Install AVG Secureline VPN to block phone tracking, access content freely, avoid ISP tracking, and protect your personal data online.

    Turn Bluetooth off

    Bluetooth is a technology that lets different devices connect to one another. But when Bluetooth is enabled and not being used, it still searches for possible connections. If your Bluetooth connection is ever synced to someone else’s device without you knowing, that person can then track your location.

    Here’s how to turn off Bluetooth on your phone:

    Go to Settings > Bluetooth and turn the button off. On an iPhone the button is a toggle; on an Android phone, simply tap the Bluetooth icon so it’s no longer highlighted.

    Use Airplane Mode

    Turning on Airplane Mode stops your phone from sending or receiving radio signals, which will stop your phone from sending any tracking signals.

    How to turn on Airplane Mode on an iPhone.

    Go to Settings and tap the toggle next to Airplane Mode so it’s green. Make sure Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are marked “Off.” (“Not connected” means they’re still on.)
    A view of settings in iPhone. Airplane mode is on, and next to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth is shown "off."

    You can also swipe up on any screen to reach the Control Center, tap the airplane icon so it’s illuminated, and ensure the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth icons are gray or white.

    How to turn on Airplane Mode on an Android phone.

    Swipe down from the top of your screen to access Quick Settings. Tap the Airplane Mode icon until it’s highlighted.

    Swipe down from the top of your Android screen to access Quick Settings and tap Airplane Mode to enable it.

    Stop Google tracking you

    There are many ways that Google uses your data. In fact, if you download your Google data, you might be shocked at what you find — a list of every website you’ve visited in the past 24 hours is just the start. But you can stop Google collecting your data by making a few changes in your Google settings.

    Here’s how to stop Google from tracking you and saving a history of all your searches web activity:

    1. Sign into your Google account on any device.

    2. Go to myaccount.google.com. On a desktop computer, click Data & privacy on the left. On a mobile device, tap Privacy and personalization.

      A view of the menu on the left of myaccount.google.com with Data & Privacy circled.
    3. Scroll down to History settings and select Web & App Activity.

      A view of History settings in Data & Privacy settings in Google. "Web & App Activity" is circled.
    4. Tap Turn off in the Web & Activity section of the screen that appears.

      Web & App Activity settings in Google. The button "Turn off" is circled.

    Manage app permissions

    You can easily manage which apps have access to various permissions or settings on your phone. You may want Uber to have access to your location, but it probably doesn’t need to have access to your camera.

    How to manage app permissions on an iPhone

    Go to Settings > Privacy and you’ll see a list of your phone’s features, permissions, and functionalities. If you tap one of the features, you’ll see a list of which apps have access to it. For example, tapping Contacts shows you which apps have access to your contact list. If you don’t want a particular app having access to that feature, tap the button next to it off.
    iPhone showing which apps have access to Contacts. Messenger, Telegram, and WhatsApp all have access.

    How to block app tracking on Android

    Go to Settings > Apps. Tap an app and select Permissions to see what information that app has access to.

    Open Android Settings > Apps  > tap an individual app to access permissions for each installed app.

    Our advice: keep the common-sense permissions and ditch the rest. You probably want WhatsApp to have access to your contacts, and Google Maps and your ride sharing app to have access to your location. Check out our complete guide to Android permissions.

    Protect your phone from spyware

    Spyware is a type of malware used to track people's phones and record their activity. If you think your phone is being tracked, check for suspicious apps that you don’t remember installing. Use an anti-spyware tool that can search your device for signs that your phone has been hacked.

    If you think your phone is infected, check out our guides to removing spyware from an Android device or getting rid of spyware from an iPhone.

    Use a VPN to prevent phone tracking

    While Internet security may seem like a full-time job, there are apps you can use to protect your privacy automatically. AVG Secure VPN will mask your internet activity, hide your location, and prevent tracking. With your VPN on, you’ll be locked behind military-grade encryption.

    Block web tracking with AVG Secure VPN

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    Block web tracking with AVG Secure VPN

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    Privacy Tips
    Privacy
    Anthony Freda
    4-11-2022