In this article, we’re going to tell you how to make your phone impossible to track (well, nearly impossible) through various digital and physical methods.
A lot of websites and applications track your phone activity and location. Usually, they ask your permission to do this, but even when you thoroughly consider application permissions, some still request more data than they need to operate. For instance, just why would this flashlight app need to know your GPS location?
While many companies provide legitimate reasons for phone tracking, like providing GPS navigation or recording health information, these businesses collect a lot of personal data in the process. Can they be trusted not to misuse that data? Will they properly secure that information from unauthorized interception?
Keep reading to learn how to make your phone impossible to track and for answers to the most common questions about phone tracking.
Worried about the possibility of being tracked? Browse our selection of counter surveillance devices.
How to make your phone impossible to track
At any given time, your phone is being tracked by dozens of businesses. There are the apps that use the data you’ve permitted them to access, websites that use your information to tailor content to you, advertisers following you across the internet, and even the companies that manufacture and provide service to your phone. Not to mention the phone-tracking threats that a cybercriminal can pose.
By implementing these 10 methods below, you’ll make your phone impossible to track and much less vulnerable.
Lock your SIM Card
No app or disabled setting will help if your SIM card has been compromised.
When you have a SIM card in your phone, it connects to nearby signal towers to let you make and receive calls and SMS texts. But that signal can be used to identify your location too. And cybercriminals can crack your SIM card without ever physically accessing the device it’s inside. So, what can you do to ensure your SIM card isn’t hacked?
Lock it. This is a proactive measure to protect your SIM card from third-party interference. You’ll navigate through settings to secure your SIM card by using a PIN code. Just ensure you know your PIN-code and save it in a safe place. If you forget, you’ll lock yourself out of your own cellular service.
Limit ad tracking on your phone
Ad tracking is a catch-all term for the process of collecting user data to measure the performance of internet advertising campaigns. You’ve seen it in action: like when you search for a product on Amazon and you spot it advertised on Facebook shortly thereafter.
While ad-tracking is not always nefarious, between cookies, pixels, and tracking URLs, along with cross-platform tracking powered by Google and Facebook, ad tracking is everywhere. When it seems like any search, site visit, and clicked link could be exploited to sell you something, it can feel overwhelming.
By opting out of ad personalization, you can help prevent advertisers from tracking you across the web.
Opt-out of carrier tracking
Much like Facebook and Google, your phone carrier likely operates a data-tracking program that they use to earn advertising revenue. Phone carriers like AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon all maintain these programs with users opted-in by default.
Fortunately, you can stop your personal data from being tracked by your carrier. Some mobile phone providers let you opt-out of third-party data sales too, along with ways to delete the data they’ve already collected on you.
For Verizon phones
Verizon also lets customers from any state delete most of the data collected about them automatically, with no request required.
For AT&T phones
Customers who live in California and Nevada can tell AT&T to stop selling their data by completing this Do Not Sell My Personal Information form. AT&T customers in California can also request their data be deleted, but requests from other states will not be honored.
For T-Mobile phones
T-Mobile customers from any state may fill out a form to request most of their personal data be deleted. T-Mobile also lets its customers stop third-party data sales through the “Do Not Sell” setting.
Anyone who doesn’t use Bluetooth devices may want to turn their Bluetooth radio off permanently in exchange for some protection and a little more battery life. If you want to shut off Bluetooth entirely without disabling the other signals to your device, you’ll have to start from the Settings app.
Activate airplane mode
Need to quickly block most of the signals to your phone? Try activating airplane mode.
Airplane mode disables cellular, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth functions. This is because airplane mode turns off all the radio transmitters and receivers of your device, preventing your phone from communicating with cellular towers.
It may also disable GPS on some devices, but that’s not always the case. GPS, unlike the other radio signal functions, does not need to be disabled by airplane mode as it does not produce any interference to other devices.
Disable GPS location services
GPS is how your phone identifies your location, and this data powers many utility, restaurant, and shopping apps. You can authorize and revoke access to this information within your phone’s application settings.
But what if you want to prevent your GPS data from being used completely? Most phones have this as a standalone “Location” setting that can be disabled to turn off GPS for your whole device. Be warned, however, that you’ll be unable to use your GPS navigation or locate your device remotely if it’s misplaced.
Try a GPS spoofing app
Perhaps you don’t want to completely disable your GPS, but you still want to hide it from third-party apps and websites you’re using. Try a GPS spoofing app.
Simply install the app and select the region you want to spoof your location to. From there the spoofing app dupes the GPS receiver of your phone into showing a different location.
On Android, you’ve got plenty of options to spoof your GPS. Apps like Fake GPS location and GPS Emulator are popular Play Store apps for this. Unfortunately, GPS spoofing is almost impossible to do on iOS, but there are some programs you can use to spoof your GPS while your iPhone is connected to a computer.
Enable a VPN connection
While a VPN can’t hide your GPS data, it can help make your phone impossible to track online. VPN providers like IPVanish conceal your internet location data by masking your identifiable IP address with a decoy. This makes any website or app that tracks your IP address believe you’re located in the region your decoy IP address comes from.
Using a VPN helps disrupt cookies along with IP-related ad-tracking tools. And IPVanish IPs are shared among users, so your activity can’t be pinpointed back to you.
Use a Faraday bag
A Faraday bag looks like any other carrying accessory you might see, except the bag contains material meant to protect its contents from outside signals. It’s named after the scientist Michael Faraday who invented the first enclosure used to block electromagnetic fields.
It works fairly simply: by preventing radio frequency or electromagnetic pulse waves from passing through the material, any devices in the Faraday bag will be unable to reach an outside signal.
They protect electronics from location tracking, hacking, and interference by blocking all incoming and outgoing electromagnetic signals between 200 MHz and up to 40 GHz. This includes GPS, 5G cellular, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.
Faraday bags come in many different styles with varying degrees of signal blocking which can be purchased anywhere from Amazon to military supply shops. Or if you’re pretty handy, try building your own Faraday enclosure at home.
Turn Off Your Phone
This is the easiest way to make your phone impossible to track, but it comes at the very demanding price of not being able to use your phone at all. If you’re going to need access to any data on your phone, back it up to a computer or the cloud before you shut down your device.
Frequently asked questions about phone tracking
Is my phone tracking me?
Yes, your phone is tracking you. That’s because your smartphone (and frankly, the internet at large) was not made with privacy in mind.
While you’re connected to the internet, both your device manufacturer and your mobile network carrier can see your browsing activity, cookies, and overall data usage. But that’s not all that’s tracking you. Naturally, the apps you install and use collect all of the data you permit them to access, even when those apps aren’t open and being used. Even more, most phones come with an advertiser ID, which can pinpoint and monitor your unique activity to improve targeted advertising.
Suffice to say, your phone is a tracking device that is always monitoring you.
Can my phone be tracked with location services off?
By shutting off Location Services, you’ll be able to successfully disable the GPS radio of your device and avoid GPS tracking. But your phone relies on other variables to determine location too.
Your IP address, along with your SIM card, and phone carrier all help to determine an accurate depiction of where you are. Even if one service is rendered unavailable, the other ones may continue to record your location details.
Unfortunately, you’ll never be completely untraceable unless your phone is powered off, but with location services disabled, you can eliminate GPS and keep tracking to a bare minimum.
Does my phone carrier really track and sell my information?
Your mobile carrier tracks your location, internet activity, app usage, and in some cases your biometrics. And despite facing regular FCC fines for the invasive practice, all of the major mobile providers in the USA collect and sell customer data.
There’s no denying that phone tracking can be an incredibly convenient technology. There are numerous situations where it can come in handy, such as when you misplace your phone or want to request a ride share. By implementing some of the methods above to nearly make your phone impossible to track, you can find a better balance between the convenience of phone tracking and its inherent data privacy risks.
This content was originally published here.