What Is App Tracking?
There are apps for just about everything these days, but they’re not just for our convenience and pleasure. While you’re playing Candy Crush in a waiting room or scrolling through Instagram on your lunch break, these apps are quietly collecting information about you. Scary, right?
This information can be gathered along with data from millions of other phones to create broad statistics and general consumer insight. It can also be passed on to advertisers who would like to sell you something (looking at you, targeted ads). Apps collect important personal data like:
- Online purchases
- Search and browsing history
- Financial data
- Contact information
- Phone usage data
If that sounds overly intrusive and makes you worry about your child’s mobile devices, you’re not alone. In this blog post, we'll teach you how to stop app tracking on iPhone and Android devices.
How App Tracking Works
How does app tracking work? Let’s start with a quick breakdown of Apple’s definition of app tracking. It states that data tracking occurs when an app collects data regarding users or devices and then links that information to third-party data for the purposes of advertising. It may also include providing data brokers with information collected through an app.
Let’s discuss what that means for you and your family. When information is collected through an app on your phone or tablet, it often tracks your online activities even outside the app. The app starts by collecting information that you provide in the app or that is mined from your device. They then use it in one or more of the following ways to:
- Improve targeting for their own advertisements
- Share information with advertisers interested in selling products or services to you
- Provide information to a data broker who could then sell your information to others
- Combine information from one app with information collected by other apps and websites to create a detailed profile about your online activity — and off
If you use even just one or two apps, it’s astounding the amount of information they have likely on you. If your child has a phone or tablet, the same goes for them.
How to Stop App Tracking
If you don’t want your personal information and location tracked and shared, then you'll need to learn how to stop app tracking on iPhone or Android devices. You should do this for every phone in your household to make sure all of your loved ones are protected from tracking programs.
Keep in mind that some apps require special permissions in order to function properly on your phone. You may have to assess how much you want to use those apps and what information you allow them to access. Many apps request far more information and access than they need to operate, so shutting off those unnecessary permissions is a good idea.
How to Stop iPhone App Tracking
Apple made a big splash when they released iOS 15, which requires user approval for app tracking. Each app must ask for your permission to track you, and they have to tell you what information they’re tracking and how they’re going to use it. This way, you can decide if that's something you want to allow.
If you want to stop iPhone app tracking, start by paying attention to the pop-up that asks for tracking permission when you download an app. Say no, or at least look at what data they want to collect and what they intend to do with it.
You can also go into your settings and remove permission for any app at any time. Tap Settings and select Privacy, then select Tracking. You will see a list of all apps that track your data at the current moment. You can turn those off if you don’t want to authorize tracking.
The downside is that many apps are finding ways to work around these newly required permissions. You can assume that any app running on your mobile device can access your location, name, stored financial information, purchasing history, and much more. The best defense is to use as few apps as possible, make sure they’re operated by trustworthy companies, and check your permission settings often.
How to Stop Android App Tracking
How do you stop Andoroid app tracking? Every app listed in the Google Play Store must ask for permissions before accessing certain features on your phone. For instance, you have to give permission for an app to access your photos, make a phone call from your device, or use your microphone and camera.
To see what access the apps on your Android device have, tap Settings and select Apps and Notifications. Some phones may have slightly different terminology, but it’s similar on most. You’ll see a list of all apps currently running on your device.
Tap each app one at a time and select Permissions. This will show you what permissions each app currently has. If there’s no need for an app to have that permission, you can turn it off with a single tap.
The next step is to go into Settings and open the Location section. You can turn off location tracking for all apps on your device here. Keep in mind that many apps need location access to work properly. For instance, your Chipotle app needs to know where you are so you can get that burrito (with extra guac) delivered.
How to Help Protect Your Kids
Make sure your children understand the importance of saying no when they’re asked for app tracking permission. You can shut down a lot of the tracking software out there today just by ensuring your child says no every time they’re asked. It's a good habit to start! And now that you know how to stop app tracking on iPhone and Android devices, you're ahead of the game.
Another way to help protect your kids online is to download Bark and monitor your child’s digital activities for signs of potential dangers like bullying, online predators, depression, and more. Bark gives you peace of mind and insight into your child’s digital world, so start your free trial today.
Bark is a comprehensive online safety solution that empowers families to monitor content, manage screen time, and filter websites to help protect their kids online. Our mission is to give parents and guardians the tools they need to raise kids in the digital age.