Tracking on mobile phones will always be a controversial topic. As much as some people detest being served relevant and localized ads, companies have been using ad tracking for years to understand consumer’s habits better.
There are several reasons why ad tracking can be beneficial to users. But it isn’t always a good idea. Google and Facebook have been incredibly vocal over the last few months about personalized ads. They have mainly been arguing that it can help small businesses.
Apple recently introduced App Tracking Transparency (ATT) that allows users to specify which apps can track their online behavior. If you don’t want any personalized ads or apps to use your data, it can be switched off completely. But what about Google and its Android operating system?
How to manage Android location settings
There isn’t really a concrete way to disable ad tracking on Android phones, but there are several methods you can use to fool the operating system. The easiest way to stop localized ads for things you don’t want is to change your location settings.
To do this, tap on Settings and navigate to Google. From there, tap on Manage Google Account. At the top, tap on Data & personalization. The options provided allow you to change whether your location is reported to Google.
Under the Use Location History option, toggle the switch off. This way, your location isn’t tracked by all your Google devices or accounts. You also have the option to only limit tracking on certain Android devices.
Opt out of ad personalization
The most robust step you can take is to opt out of personalized ads. Like Apple did a few months ago, Google revealed that it would make it harder for Android apps to track you later this year if you opt out.
To do this, tap on Settings and navigate to Google. Tap on the Ads option and toggle the switch for Opt out of Ads Personalization. When Google implements the change, advertisers will see a string of zeros instead of your Advertising ID.
“As part of Google Play services update in late 2021, the advertising ID will be removed when a user opts out of personalization using advertising ID in Android Settings. Any attempts to access the identifier will receive a string of zeros instead of the identifier,” Google explained in an Android developer blog.
Change Android Activity Controls
Android and Google users can change the way the operating system gathers information. If you haven’t changed your location settings or ads personalization on your Android device, you can do so on your Activity Controls page.
This page serves as a catch-all for Google settings, and almost everything that Google tracks, shares, or creates on you can be viewed (and deleted) from here. To change your settings, go to myactivity.google.com/activitycontrols.
Under the Location History panel, you can change the settings across your Google account. You can also view any saved data and delete historical information as well.
Below the YouTube History panel is the Ad personalization option. Toggle the switch to turn it off and you won’t see advertising tailored to your browsing habits anymore.