Are you concerned about the privacy implications of your smartphone tracking your every move? You’re not alone. Many users, like Paranoid, share similar worries about the extent to which our devices monitor us. In this digital age, where information is constantly being collected, it’s vital to understand how you can safeguard your privacy while still enjoying the benefits of modern technology.

Smartphones have undoubtedly transformed into essential tools that we carry with us everywhere. They not only assist us in our daily tasks but also serve as a gateway for service providers to gather valuable data about our behaviors and preferences. From tracking our precise locations to monitoring our app usage patterns, the level of surveillance can be unsettling.

While some tracking mechanisms are inherent to the functioning of wireless carriers for necessary services like emergency response, the extensive data collection by numerous apps raises legitimate concerns.

So, what steps can you take to regain control over your privacy and limit the tracking activities on your smartphone?

Audit your apps’ privacy and location services

To ensure the security and efficiency of your mobile device, it’s crucial to regularly review and manage the privacy settings of the apps installed on it. Begin by assessing the permissions granted to each app and consider whether they align with your preferences and usage patterns. Removing apps that are no longer needed not only declutters your device but also reduces potential security risks.

Here are some steps to effectively audit your apps’ privacy and location services:

  • Review app permissions: Take the time to check what permissions each app has been granted. Consider whether the app truly needs access to certain data or features.
  • Remove unused apps: Identify and uninstall apps that you no longer use. By doing so, you not only free up storage space but also minimize the exposure of your personal information.
  • Disable unnecessary location services: Evaluate which apps and services require access to your location. Disable location services for apps that do not have a legitimate need for this information.

By implementing these practices, you can enhance the privacy and security of your device while optimizing its performance. Regularly reviewing your apps’ permissions and location settings is a proactive measure that empowers you to maintain control over your digital footprint.

Tweak Location Settings by App

When it comes to your phone’s apps, some may require access to your location data for proper functionality, while others do not necessarily need this information. For iPhone users, adjusting these settings is a straightforward process.

To customize app location preferences on your iPhone, head to Settings, navigate to Privacy, and then select Location Services. From there, you can choose among different options: Always, While Using, or Never for each specific app on your device.

On the other hand, Android users have a slightly different approach. Although they lack the same direct control over app settings, they can still manage location tracking accuracy on their devices.

Tracking Accuracy Options for Android Users:
High Accuracy: Utilizes GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or mobile networks to pinpoint your location.
Battery Saving Mode: Relies only on Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or mobile networks for tracking, conserving battery life.
Device Only: Uses solely GPS and device sensors for location determination.

By understanding and adjusting these settings based on your preferences, you can strike a balance between functionality and privacy on your device.

Turn off location history setting

If you own an Apple or Android device, you might be surprised to learn that they store a record of your “Frequent Locations” along with the duration of your visits. If you prefer to keep this information private or simply want to manage your location history, you can easily do so by adjusting the settings on your device.

To turn off the location history setting on your device, follow these simple steps:

  • For Apple devices:

    1. Go to your device’s Settings.
    2. Select Privacy.
    3. Choose Location Services.
    4. Scroll down and select System Services.
    5. Tap on Significant Locations.
    6. You may need to enter your passcode or use Touch ID/Face ID to access this information.
    7. Here, you can view a list of your Frequent Locations and toggle off this feature if you wish.
  • For Android devices:

    1. Open the Settings app.
    2. Select Security & Location.
    3. Choose Location.
    4. Tap on Google Location History.
    5. You can disable this feature by toggling the switch off.

By turning off the location history setting on your device, you can have more control over your privacy and data. Remember to regularly review your privacy settings to ensure that your personal information is kept secure.

Use a VPN

When it comes to safeguarding your online activities and enhancing your privacy, utilizing a Virtual Private Network (VPN) proves to be a valuable tool. A VPN encrypts your internet traffic, providing an added layer of security that shields your data from prying eyes. Additionally, by utilizing different servers, a VPN allows you to obscure your actual location, thereby enhancing your anonymity online.

Consider integrating a VPN into your online routine to bolster your cybersecurity efforts and protect your sensitive information from potential threats. By incorporating this technology, you can navigate the digital landscape with greater peace of mind, knowing that your data is safeguarded and your privacy remains intact.

In essence, employing a VPN serves as a proactive measure to fortify your online security and ensure a safer browsing experience.

Opt out of targeted ads

Advertisers are interested in understanding your physical movements and the time you spend in different locations. To provide more control over the ads you see, consider opting out of targeted ads. By doing so, you can enhance your online privacy and reduce the amount of personalized advertising you encounter.

Turn off all your device’s location services

If you are concerned about your privacy, one option to consider is disabling location services on your device. However, it is important to understand that this step is quite drastic. By turning off location services, you may lose access to mapping services and the ability to locate your device in case it is misplaced or stolen.

The key takeaway: When using a smartphone, there is a trade-off between convenience and privacy. Implementing a few proactive measures can help you enhance your privacy.

For more insights on phone, wireless, and broadband queries, Marguerite Reardon (@maggie_reardon) provides expert advice. Feel free to share your questions at with “Ask Maggie” in the subject line.

For additional compelling stories, you can explore the captivating content in the summer 2019 edition of CNET Magazine.

Dear Maggie,

I’m concerned about the reports stating that smartphones can track every move we make. Is there a way for me to protect my privacy?

Thank you,

Dear Worried,

Your worries about smartphone tracking are valid. Phones have indeed become like electronic tags, recording our locations, activities, and interactions with apps and websites. While some tracking is necessary for emergency purposes, many apps also track your movements for advertising reasons.

To safeguard your privacy, here are some steps you can take:

Audit your apps’ privacy and location settings:
Review the privacy settings of the apps on your phone. Remove any unused apps and disable location services for apps that do not require your location.

Adjust location settings by app:
For iPhone users, navigate to Settings, Privacy, and Location Services to choose location tracking options for each app. Android users can control tracking accuracy through settings.

Disable location history:
Both Apple and Android devices store your frequent locations and durations. If this concerns you, clear your location history in the settings.

Use a VPN:
A Virtual Private Network encrypts your online activity and masks your location by routing your traffic through different servers.

Opt out of targeted ads:
Minimize tracking by opting out of targeted advertisements whenever possible.

Turn off all location services:
As a last resort, you can disable all location services on your device. Keep in mind that this may limit certain functionalities like mapping services.

In conclusion, while smartphones do compromise some privacy, taking these precautions can help mitigate the risks.

For more insights on phone, wireless, and broadband queries, feel free to reach out to me at with “Ask Maggie” in the subject line.

Best regards,

Marguerite Reardon


  1. Why do smartphones track our movements?
    Smartphones track our movements for various reasons, including emergency location services and targeted advertising.

  2. How can I protect my privacy on my smartphone?
    You can protect your privacy by auditing your apps’ privacy settings, adjusting location preferences, using a VPN, opting out of targeted ads, and turning off location services if needed.

  3. Can I disable location tracking on specific apps?
    Yes, you can control location tracking for individual apps by adjusting the settings in your phone’s privacy settings.

  4. What is a VPN, and how can it help protect my privacy?
    A VPN encrypts your online activity and masks your location by routing your traffic through different servers, enhancing your privacy and security.

  5. Should I be concerned about targeted ads on my smartphone?
    Targeted ads track your physical movements and behavior. Opting out of such ads can help minimize tracking.

  6. What are the risks of disabling all location services on my device?
    Disabling all location services may limit certain functionalities like mapping services and locating your device if it gets lost.

  7. How often should I review my apps’ privacy settings?
    It is advisable to regularly review and update your apps’ privacy settings to ensure maximum privacy protection.

  8. Can smartphones track our activities without our knowledge?
    Some apps may track your activities surreptitiously. Hence, it is essential to monitor and manage app permissions proactively.

  9. Are there any legal implications to smartphone tracking?
    The legality of smartphone tracking varies by region and jurisdiction. Users are encouraged to familiarize themselves with relevant laws and regulations.

  10. Is there a way to completely stop smartphone tracking?
    While it is challenging to entirely stop smartphone tracking, following privacy best practices and using privacy-enhancing tools can help reduce tracking.

  11. How do I know if my smartphone is tracking my location?
    Check your phone’s settings and privacy permissions to see which apps have access to your location data and adjust as needed.

  12. Can I report apps that abuse location tracking for unauthorized purposes?
    Many app marketplaces have reporting mechanisms for users to flag apps that misuse location data. Reporting such apps can help protect your privacy and that of others.


In today’s digital age, smartphones play a significant role in our lives, tracking our movements and activities. While this raises concerns about privacy, there are proactive steps we can take to safeguard our personal information. By auditing app settings, adjusting location preferences, using VPNs, and being mindful of targeted ads, we can mitigate potential privacy risks. It is essential to strike a balance between convenience and privacy by staying informed and taking control of our digital footprint. To stay updated on the latest insights and solutions for privacy protection, continue exploring reputable sources and seeking expert advice.