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How to stop your Android from giving its unique identifier to third-party trackers

Because no one likes giving up information if they don’t have to.

samsung android phone on table
Image: Unsplash

Our iPhones and Androids are such a part of modern life that they’re not often far from our hands. I mean, we shop on them, talk to our friends on them, order food on them, even do work on them. With all of that data going in and out of our phones, it’s a prime place for advertisers to find out about us so they can target advertising to specific demographics.

It’s not also just advertising though, as linking our advertising profile to our real identity is pretty simple. All it takes is the unique advertising identifier off our phone, and a database or two which are all commercially available to anyone willing to pay.

Don’t believe me? How about this New York Times article showing the movements of those people who traveled to Washington, D.C. for the Jan 6 rally that turned into a storming of the Capitol Building? That article was made possible by just that, a data set linking unique (and supposedly randomized) identifiers used for advertising purposes. The paper then linked those to other available databases, and to phone location data, and voila, one map of everyone’s movements.

Sure, you know you’re not about to go riot in the seat of the Federal government, but that doesn’t mean you want to be tracked everywhere either. We’ll show you how to limit anyone from accessing the unique advertising ID stored on your Android device.

Here’s how to turn off ad tracking on your Android device

If you want to take back ownership of your data, start here.

  1. Open up the Settings app

  2. Scroll down to Google and tap on it

  3. Tap on Ads

  4. Tap the Opt out of Ads Personalization toggle so it goes blue. Also, tap on Reset advertising ID so you get a new number android opt out of ads personalization

While you’ve turned off targeting advertising from Google based on your smartphone usage, there’s one more thing to turn off. Depending on your smartphone’s manufacturer, you might also have Location-based ads enabled. To turn it off, open up Settings > Security & Privacy >Location access > System services and tap on it. You’ll see a toggle switch for Location-based Ads. Tap on that so it goes gray, and you’ve disabled location-based ad tracking.

Now your device won’t be passing your advertising ID and all of the demographical data it holds on you to advertisers or anyone else who asks. Personalized advertising isn’t always so bad, but it’s easily misused so it’s better to keep that information unavailable.

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