The thought of someone tracking your every move, whether it's your employer, the government, or even a stalker, can be frightening.
All smartphones on the market today have built-in location services that can be used to display location data.But what if you don't want to share your location data with anyone?If you disable location services on your phone, is it still possible to be tracked?
Read on to find out if your phone can be tracked after you disable location services.
Can your phone be tracked if location services are turned off?
"Can I be tracked if location services are turned off?" The answer to the question is a technical one.After all, turning off location services on your phone is supposed to make it untraceable.But that's not always the case, as there are still other ways your device can be tracked.So, can a phone still be tracked when location services are turned off?
To be fair, turning off the built-in location services on your device does a pretty good job of hiding your location.And if you ask whether the location service should be on or off?For privacy, the best answer is "off".However, trackers can use other techniques and tricks to reveal your device's location, whether or not location services are turned on.
5 Ways to Track Your Phone Without GPS
Turning off location services on your device does a good job of hiding your device's location, but only to an extent.There are other technologies and tricks you can use to track your phone even with location services turned off.Let’s talk about some of them below.
1. Cell phone operator tower
Cell phone carriers have cell towers everywhere and can track your phone's location by identifying the cell tower you're connected to and measuring the time delay it takes for the signal to travel between the tower and your phone and back.The delay is then calculated and converted to a specific distance or range, which returns a fairly accurate location of the phone.
This works really well because your phone (while powered on) maintains a constant connection with nearby cell towers.
2. Public Wi-Fi network
Free Wi-Fi networks are all the rage these days.They're everywhere, and when you have a slow connection, it can be one of those tempting connections.But here's the thing: Public Wi-Fi networks are another way your device's location can be tracked, even with location services turned off.
Most free Wi-Fi providers collect your device's Media Access Control (MAC) address in exchange for a connection.Providers can use your phone's MAC address to keep a log of where you visit while connected to any of the same provider's hotspots.
StingRays (also known as base station emulators) function a lot like base stations, except their sole purpose is to track your phone rather than provide you with a real network connection.
StingRay simulates a base station, allowing nearby mobile devices to connect to it. StingRay is primarily used by law enforcement to track devices within a specific area.They broadcast a stronger signal than the base station, which forces phones to disconnect from legitimate base stations and connect and ping them instead.
Just like legal cell towers, your phone's location can be inferred by measuring and translating the time it takes for a signal to travel between your phone and the StingRay and back.
4. Bluetooth tracking
Bluetooth can also be used to track your phone's location.Bluetooth Tracking works by detecting and recording the unique MAC address of your device's Bluetooth radio.For example, retailers and advertisers are already using Bluetooth beacons in their stores or in public places to track customer behavior and provide targeted advertising.
These beacons can detect nearby Bluetooth devices, including smartphones, and collect data on their presence and movement within the area.
5. Spyware and Malware
Pre-installed malware can also be used to track your device even if your GPS is turned off.The most common way this malware enters your device is through a Trojan horse, which enters your system through a back door.
The Skygofree malware tracks the location of the device it's installed on and disguises it as an update to improve a user's internet speed.
Once installed, Skygofree tracks the location of the device it's installed on, turns on recordings, controls Wi-Fi networks, and manages apps like Facebook Messenger, Skype, Viber, and WhatsApp.
How to stop your phone from being tracked
There are many reasons why you might want to prevent your phone from being tracked.It may be for privacy and sometimes even for security reasons.
So after answering the question "Can you track your phone if location is off?", it's important to know how to protect your device from being tracked.
1. Turn off Wi-Fi in public places
Most smartphones generally have a connection preference for Wi-Fi networks.You may have experienced this: your device automatically switched from using mobile data to using an available Wi-Fi network.This happens a lot if your Wi-Fi is always on.
Disabling your phone's Wi-Fi connection when in public places eliminates the risk of your device automatically connecting to a Wi-Fi network that collects location data.
2. Turn off the GPS
Even with location services turned off, it's still possible for your device to be tracked, but it's worse not turning it off.Turning off location services on your phone provides a layer of security against the most common location trackers.
3. Browse with a VPN
A virtual private network (VPN) enables you to browse the internet anonymously by creating a private network from your public internet connection.When you browse with a VPN, it encrypts your internet data, hiding your IP address and physical location.That way, you'll be protected even if you visit a website that collects visitor location data.
4. Turn off Bluetooth when not in use
Bluetooth is a great short-range wireless communication technology.However, it also works as a phone location tracker. Airtags already use Bluetooth technology to find devices, so it's easy to see how the technology could be abused.To prevent Bluetooth tracking, you should disable Bluetooth when not in use.
5. Don’t share your location on social media
A common way people unknowingly reveal their location and movements is by sharing their whereabouts on social media platforms.Many social media apps allow you to tag your location in posts, check-ins, or geotags, which can reveal your exact coordinates, or at least provide clues to your current location.If you suspect your device is being tracked, avoid sharing your location on social media altogether.
6. Be mindful of your download sites
Only install apps from official stores.There are other ways malware can spread, but disabling the installation of apps from third-party sources and paying attention to your download sites is the best way to keep them out.
You can also install an antivirus to better protect your device from malicious apps and files, suspicious websites, and dangerous links.
7. Double-check app permissions
All apps require certain permissions to function properly.But you should be wary of suspicious permission requests.When an app that doesn't need your location data to function asks for location permissions, it's a sign that the app might be doing more than it should.
Uninstall any app that asks for more permissions than you think is reasonable.If you absolutely need to use the feature, you can find alternatives in the app store.
8. Keep your device’s software up to date
One of the best ways to keep your device secure is to regularly update your software.Operating system updates often include security patches that fix vulnerabilities in the code.Therefore, if a new vulnerability is discovered, it is less likely that you will be affected if your software is up to date.
9. Factory reset
If you think your device has been compromised, a factory reset is a last resort.Doing this will delete all data on your phone, so be sure to backup everything before you proceed.
Keep in mind that factory reset will only work if malware is not actively running in the background, or if it is not installed on your device as system software.
How to stop your cell phone carrier from tracking your phone's location
You may have noticed that none of the tips shared above will protect your phone from being tracked by your service provider.There is a reason for this.
That's because your phone needs to be in constant communication with nearby cell towers to work properly.The only way to stop your device from being tracked by your cell phone carrier is to turn it off -- and remove the battery.
This is the only way you can guarantee that your device is not being tracked.Anyone trying to track your device after it's been turned off will only be able to track it to where it was before it was turned off.Ideally, this should not be your home address.
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