How to Make Your Phone Impossible to Track (Works for Any Device)

How often do you flip through apps and websites? How often do you mindlessly scroll through social media? Probably more times than you can count. You can’t help it. Every other app you use is designed to keep you glued to the screen.

The issue is that large corporations capitalize on your internet dependency. They track your activity and your location, and gather personal information to sell off to advertising agencies.

These companies have databases filled to the brim with your data. What happens if these databases get hacked? How easily could cybercriminals gain access to your most private details?Using a premium VPN goes a long way to safeguard your privacy and ensure your security. CyberGhost VPN helps protect you against invasive data harvesting and tracking.

It’s not always easy in this digital world, but I’ve prepared 7 simple tips for you to avoid being tracked online. First things first, who’s tracking you?

Note: VPNs can’t provide complete and total anonymity. That’s why it’s important to go the extra mile to protect yourself on phones, computers, and other internet-connected devices.

 

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Who are We Hiding From?

Before we can focus on how to prevent online tracking, it’s important to know who could be tracking you. You’ll find 3 groups of people after your private information.

1. Cybercriminals

Cybercrime reached global pandemic proportions. It’s natural to want to keep malicious parties away.

Cybercriminals make a lot of money out of your data. Your private information helps them:

    • 🚨 Infect your device with malware.
    • 🚨 Steal and misuse your financial details and banking accounts.
    • 🚨 Forge and sell fake passports.
    • 🚨 Impersonate you.
    • 🚨 Manipulate you through adware.

Just to name a few, because cyber threats are always evolving and mutating. Cybercriminals take every opportunity they can to spy on youand steal your information.

That’s why you should always keep an eye out for signs your phone or your PC has been hacked.

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2. Advertisers

It used to be that businesses had to run surveys, questionnaires, and trials until they could figure out what products to pitch to whom. Nowadays, your online data serves information on a golden plate. Your likes, hobbies, needs, wants, and spending habits are all out there, recorded by cookies and stored on remote servers . 

That’s why companies want your data.

Online advertising heavily relies on tracking to customize offers and product placements. Finding what makes you tick is paramount to getting money out of you, so advertisers employ a wide range of invasive data-harvesting tactics . 

This makes tracking incredibly creepy, though. Ever talked about needing a new couch with someone and had your Facebook or Instagram feed bombarding you with couch ads? You’re not the only one.

Anything hyper specific is a sign of tracking. This can include a local business, uncommon hobbies and tastes you might have, or a peculiar service you need.

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3. Government Agencies

Government espionage is a common fear, especially in some countries where government overreach threatens citizens’ freedoms. Digital advancements made it easier to keep track of people , their whereabouts, and the content they access. It’s also easier than ever to store and organize user data on servers with large-scale computing capacity.

Government agencies claim population data is vital for national security. The problem is that they don’t clarify what information they collect and how.

While an online service might have a privacy policy, governmental agencies aren’t really transparent. Tech companies like Google or Facebook regularly hand over data to authorities. That said, state security agencies never disclose how they use that data, or if they convicted anyone with it.

Legislation falls behind technological advancements. Most countries have laws protecting your private communication through letters and postcards, but not emails or text messages. Few laws protect you from government overreach, but they focus more on economic and social aspects, not digital ones.

Governments can abuse online surveillance tools and enable bulk data collection. It’s one of the reasons devices have backdoors to allow easy third-party access.

How to Make Your Phone Almost Impossible to Track

You can mitigate the data you share via the apps and services you use.

On iPhone

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Select Privacy
  3. Select Tracking
  4. Toggle Allow Apps to Request to Track off

On Android

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Select Locations
  3. Choose App Locations Permissions
  4. Select each app individually and change permissions based on what you feel comfortable sharing

For Android, the exact steps might depend on your manufacturer and OS version.

Keep in mind disabling too many permissions might render a few apps inaccessible . For example, you won’t be able to use any ride-sharing apps as long as your location is disabled.

Backdoors and SIM Cards: Entry Points to Your Device

Backdoors

Your smartphone is the main gateway to governmental tracking efforts. It’s a device you always carry with you, and it’s equipped with an active internet connection, microphone, and GPS capabilities .

Somehow, it’s still not enough tracking for some governmental agencies. That’s why a few of them mandate backdoors.

Think of a backdoor as a fail-safe bypassing the regular authentication measures on your device. A backdoor enables remote access to your device, sometimes without your knowledge or consent. It also allows other parties to perform a wide range of activities, like:

    • 🚩 Taking screenshots.
    • 🚩 Sending and receiving files.
    • 🚩 Changing system settings.
    • 🚩 Uploading files to remote servers.
    • 🚩 Installing malware.
    • 🚩 Launching cyberattacks (such as DDoS attacks).
    • 🚩 Activating peripheral equipment (such as cameras and microphones).

The mere existence of such a program on your device can leave you exposed to cybercriminals, so why would the government mandate one? In the interest of national security, of course.

Take the example of the LAED and EARN IT Acts in the US. The LAED Act aims to force tech companies to assist the government in decrypting user data if ordered by court. Because of the logistics behind this, companies would have to resort to backdoors to comply . This undermines online security .

The EARN IT Act proposes even more invasive procedures. Proponents of the bill aim to prevent child sexual abuse material from being distributed on platforms. To comply with this, websites would have to scan and monitor all posts, private messages, attachments, and pictures to root out any illegal materials.

This spells surveillance, and it’s a disaster for your privacy. You don’t have an easy way to opt out of backdoors or content filters . Vote for privacy-friendly changes, and contact your representatives. Urge them to vote against a surveillance apparatus.

Now’s probably the point where this all seems too unfair, and we’d all just be better off without the fancy devices and their surveillance tools. Well, not really.

SIM Card Tracking

Even a dumb phone (i.e. not a smartphone) can track you through the SIM card. SIM cards connect to nearby signal towers for you to receive calls and send SMS texts, but that signal can be used to find out your location. Cybercriminals can also hack your SIM card without ever physically accessing your phone. It all sounds bad, but what can you do?

Take some measures to protect your SIM card from unwanted access. Just be sure you know your PIN numbergiven to you by your provider first. Otherwise, you’re locking yourself out of the service.

How to Lock Your SIM Card

For Android Phones

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Select Lock screen and security
  3. Choose Other security settings
  4. Go to Set up SIM card lock
  5. Enable the slider for Lock SIM card

For iPhones

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Select Cellular
  3. Select SIM PIN
  4. Enter your PIN to confirm

For iPads

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Select Mobile Data
  3. Select SIM PIN
  4. Enter your PIN to confirm

That’s it for SIM cards. Now let’s move to the online world of tracking and give you 7 easy tips to protect yourself.

7 Simple Tips to Protect Your Data Once and For All

In the battle for internet privacy, you fight on three fronts. You need to keep your private information away from cybercriminals, advertisers, and government authorities.

The deck may be stacked against you, but you can still defend yourself. Here are 7 simple tips to help you prevent tracking.

1. Encrypt Your Data with CyberGhost VPN

Your first line of defense against privacy-invasive practices should be a VPN.

Use CyberGhost VPN to reroute your traffic through a secure, remote tunnel and encrypt your data . This helps create a more private web browsing experience, and prying eyes can’t track and hijack your online activities . Malicious actors, government agencies, and your ISP can’t monitor what you do online.

You can use CyberGhost VPN to protect up to 7 devices simultaneously . This will help you thwart tracking attempts on your phone, PC, gaming console, and even Smart TV.

 

Devices supporting CyberGhost VPN

You can install CyberGhost VPN on your router to cover all your connections.

We have an extensive server fleet of thousands of VPN servers in 91 countries, and you can choose whichever one you want. Trackers won’t easily follow you through our remote servers, since we don’t store any data.

We abide by a strict No Logs policy , which means our servers are designed to wipe out data with every single reboot. We don’t know anything about you or what you do online. It’s none of our business.

We also rely on the highly-secure AES 256-bit encryption to secure your traffic. This encryption standard scrambles your data and makes it unreadable to third parties, like cybercriminals. AES is used by governments worldwide to protect classified information, since it’s impossible to crack. Due to its large key size, you’d need supercomputers working non-stop for years to decrypt your information.

We even underwent an independent audit . Professionals from Deloitte inspected our servers and management systems, and concluded they’re in line with our privacy policy.

The best part? CyberGhost VPN comes with a 45-day money-back guarantee. You can try it completely risk-free.

 

2. Read the Privacy Policy

Scroll, scroll, scroll, aaand click on I agree.

That’s how most people deal with privacy policies. They’re long, confusing, and feature a lot of legalese that make the text hard to read. That’s why we tend to gloss over them.

In fact, a 2017 Deloitte survey found 91% of people consent to terms and conditions without ever having read them . With younger people, aged 18-34, this number goes up to 97%. A 2019 Pew Research studyfound similar results, with only 9% of Americans reporting they always read a privacy policy before clicking I agree .

We tend to forget a privacy policy is a legally binding agreement . You wouldn’t sign a lease document without first reading it, so why should this one be any different? Privacy policies specify what data the services you’re using collect and for what purpose. They also tell you if they share your data with third parties, such as advertisers.

What to Look for Before You Agree

Whenever you click on I Agree , you’re giving these companies your consent to use your data as specified in the privacy policy. Serious companies won’t collect your data unless you agree to it. This is something most people don’t realize when they hurry to agree to the terms of service.

I spoke with Lesley Carhart, Principal Threat Analyst at Dragos Inc., about the key things you should look out forwhen going through privacy policies:

“It’s important to take some time and read the policies carefully–especially for free or cheap services on the internet, like video games, or software.

Pay particular attention to how your data can be shared, what data is shared with the service, and how your usage is tracked when you’re using and not using the service. How long is your data kept? What happens to your data if the company goes out of business or it is sold? A reputable business should answer these questions clearly.”

Once you have a clear understanding of how and why a company gathers data, you can better decide if the positives of their service outweigh the negatives. Be reasonable on your expectations though. You won’t find a single service that doesn’t access any of your data. All services need some amount of data to run, from email address services to your operating system. Just be sure you’re comfortable with the what and how long.

If you read through a privacy policy and find something startling, you have a tough decision to make. Is this a service you really want to use?

3. Clear Your Browser History and Cookies

Cookies are small blocks of data allowing websites to store and retrieve information locally on your device. Cookies usually pertain to your browsing sessions, and are responsible for customizing your experience and remembering your preferences. Many websites assign you a unique visitor ID under a cookie file. That file contains information such as your:

    • ➡ ID number.
    • ➡ Location.
    • ➡ IP address.
    • ➡ Browser or device language.
    • ➡ Time you spent on the site
    • ➡ Metadata including your screen’s resolution, your operating system, etc.

These leave a tangible log of your internet activity. They may be called cookies, but they’re actually more like crumbs.

These cookies remain on your system, keeping a record of everything you’ve done . That’s why sometimes, when you go to a site you’ve previously visited, your login credentials are saved even if you never checked that little Remember Me box.

If you’re on a PC, you can use CyberGhost Cookie Cleaner to clear your browsing history and cache with just a few clicks. Browsers on mobile aren’t compatible with extensions, so you’ll have to delete your cookies manually. The exact steps depend on the browser you’re using, but you should generally look under Settings and History for a Clear Cookies or Clear Cache option.

Chrome Safari Firefox Opera
1. Tap ⋮ in the right corner 1. Go to Settings 1. Tap the menu icon 1. Tap the menu icon
2. Tap History 2. Select Safari 2. Tap More 2. Tap Settings
3. Select Clear browsing data 3. Tap Clear History and Website Data 3. Tap Settings 3. Scroll down to Privacy
4. Select a time range 4. Go to Privacy & Security 4. Tap Clear browsing data
5. Check the boxes next to Cookies and site data, and Cached images and files 5. Select Clear private data 5. Tap the check box next to Clear cookies and data
6. Tap Clear data 6. Select Cache and Cookies & active logins 6. Tap Clear Data
7. Tap Clear data 7. Tap Clear data

4. Use a Private Browser

Private browser might seem like a long-winded name for incognito mode, but it’s actually a completely different thing. Incognito gets a good reputation, but it’s all for nothing. Incognito doesn’t hide or make you anonymous online. It just prevents your browser from storing browsing information on your device. It doesn’t stop cybercriminals, advertisers, or government agencies from keeping tabs on you.

That’s why you need a private browser . By design, private browsers prevent tracking and logging. However, not all browsers offer good security and user-friendly features . If this is your first time switching browsers, here are some points you should pay attention to.

 

CyberGhost Private Browser on Windows, Mac, and iOS

Expect features like:

    • 🎯 In-built ad-blocker.
    • 🎯 In-built tracker blocker.
    • 🎯 Browser fingerprinting protection.
    • 🎯 Open-source code.
    • 🎯 Automated cookie and cache removal.
    • 🎯 Biometric bookmark security.

If you’re switching from the most popular Chrome, you should also keep in mind your private Chromium-based browser should be compatible with Chrome extensions . This will make your transition more seamless.

5. Use Privacy-Friendly Search Engines

Google is by far the most popular and widely used search engine, but it’s a data-siphoning machine. Google collects everything about you , including your search history, your clicks, your time spent online, your transaction history, and much more.

Bing and Baidu, the second and third largest search engines in the world, have their own algorithms to store your information and create personalized search profiles based on your history .

To protect yourself from search engine tracking, you need to use a privacy-friendly search engine . These won’t track, store, or sell your information, but without a data-analyzing algorithm your results might not be as accurate as you’d want.

6. Be Mindful of What You Share on Social Media

What’s on your mind? What’s happening?

By their very nature, social media platforms encourage you to share your thoughts. When you post that you’re happy with your new gardening tool or recipe, the algorithm learns something about you.

Keywords, check-ins, hashtags… they’re all used to profile you and track you for advertising purposes.

All social media platforms have embedded trackers, and they’re impossible to avoid. The only way out would be to never use social media. It sounds easy, but it’s impractical–if not impossible–in our day and age. You can still at least try to keep data collection to a minimum.

You can minimize tracking on social media in two ways. First, avoid oversharing as best you can. Don’t enter your phone number unless you need to. Don’t share pictures that help profile you or your loved ones.

If you’re on a PC or laptop, it’s pretty easy to compartmentalize your social media platforms. For example, you can use a different browser for your socials, and another for your daily online surfing. This won’t 100% prevent tracking , but it will make it harder for sites like Facebook and Instagram to check your activity outside their platforms.

Apps are much more problematic. Apps can track a lot of information about you , sometimes even outside their intended purpose. That’s why Facebook can send you friend suggestions based on where you work or the school you go to. It uses your location to find out who you’re likely to come into contact with.

This is the privacy trade-off of social media apps. They don’t have an off-switch, but you can at least disable location-based tracking.

Facebook Instagram Twitter TikTok Snapchat
1. Open the Facebook app 1. Go to your phone’s settings 1. Go to your phone’s settings 1. Go to your phone’s settings 1. Open the Snapchat app
2. Select Settings & Privacy 2. Go to Privacy 2. Go to Privacy 2. Go to Privacy 2. Tap the settings gear icon
3. Select Settings 3. Select Location Services 3. Select Location Services 3. Select Location Services 3. Go to My Location
4. Scroll down to Privacy 4. Choose Instagram 4. Choose Twitter. 4. Choose TikTok. 4. Enable Ghost Mode
5. Select Location 5. Select Never or While Using the App 5. Select Never or While Using the App 5. Select Never or While Using the App 5. Choose Until turned off when the pop-up appears
6. Go to Location Settings
7. Turn location tracking off

7. Be Careful on Public Wi-Fi

We depend a lot on public Wi-Fi . At school, work, or the mall, your phone automatically connects to a free Wi-Fi network . They’re not password-protected, so it’s a seamless connection.

Free internet is nice, but it’s the not-password-protected part you should worry about. Since they lack even the most basic security settings, public Wi-Fi networks aren’t safe. Cybercriminals use them to secretly install malware on your device, so you can imagine how easy it is to install trackers.

China made headlines when authorities installed trackers on tourists’ phones before they entered the Xinjiang region. Cybercriminals can install trackers like that, too, except you can’t know who targets you on public Wi-Fi.

The most logical advice would be to completely avoid public networks, but we know it’s not feasible in this day and age. What you can do, though, is encrypt your data to protect yourself.

Use CyberGhost VPN to channel your traffic through an encrypted tunnel. You’d be protecting yourself on 3 fronts:

    • ✅ Our VPN apps encrypt your traffic . This prevents snoopers from spying on your traffic and browsing history.
    • ✅ Our apps force your traffic through HTTPS . HTTP sites are notoriously unsecure, which makes them a perfect target for trackers.>
    • ✅ CyberGhost VPN uses highly-secure VPN encryption . This prevents criminals from brute-forcing their way into your device and installing trackers.

Using CyberGhost VPN doesn’t have any other impact on the way you use a public Wi-Fi network. You don’t have to do any extra configurations to be able to surf securely.

Behind-the-Scenes Data Collection

Smartphone manufacturers engage in behind-the-scenes data collection. A VPN alone can’t prevent hardware manufacturers or suppliers from invading your privacy.

Manufacturers install backdoors to get around security measures and gain access to their technology after their product is released. That can help customers in case they ever get locked out of their device and helps law enforcement agencies gather evidence in the event of an investigation.

That also means the hardware provider, device manufacturer, and device supplier all have high-level user access to your device. That allows them to collect your data.

Supply chain backdoors are a double-edged sword. You have 2 options to work your way around them:

1. Privacy-Friendly Operating Systems

If you’re on Android , you can install a privacy-friendly OS like Fedora to limit data collection . Opt for an open-source OS if possible. Open-source code means you can inspect the app or software code for yourself . The installation process can be a bit of a hassle, and it might void your warranty . You should also properly back up your data to avoid losing your files.

2. Privacy-Friendly Products

You can opt for privacy-friendly products from manufacturers like Fairphone, Purism, or Pinephone. These hardware companies aim to protect user data, which means they don’t incorporate backdoors or other security risks .

Both hardware and OS components are designed to prevent data retention and thwart tracking attempts. That said, due to the nature of distribution, they still include unique serial numbers . They’re also not solely effective against location-based tracking.

Location-Based Tracking: What Can You Do?

Location-based tracking is really hard to overcome. If you’re on mobile, it’s almost impossible to bypass these trackers. Your smartphone is designed to triangulate your location. Through satellite, network ID, or IP address, your phone is always grabbing at something to locate where you are.

Location-based tracking provides information to optimize all the digital services you use. You can navigate more easily, find reviews instantly, and even have authorities find you in the event of an emergency.

That said, location-based tracking comes with privacy concerns , especially in countries where no laws prevent government overreach. Most devices we carry don’t have the option to turn-off location-based tracking. You can only cut off an app’s access to location services.

The only way to actually hide your location is through a combination of IP, SIM, and GPS spoofers . GPS spoofing services are third-party services altering data to make your device appear in a different location. They’re illegal in some countries .

SIM spoofing is generally only carried out by cybercriminals in attacks. The tools needed for SIM spoofing are not readily available, and mostly illegal.

Since cybercriminals commonly use GPS spoofing to hide their tracks, the practice can get you banned from different digital services. Online games and video conferencing apps have anti-fraud systems to prevent you from using GPS spoofers.

Spoofing your location can also render most of your apps unusable. Many apps require access to your GPS settings to work properly. GPS spoofing services will make you lose access to:

          • Maps (Google Maps, Waze).
          • Weather apps (The Weather Channel, WeatherBug).
          • Apps for emergency services (Natural Disaster Monitor, Smart911).
          • Ridesharing apps (Lyft, Uber).
          • Food delivery apps (UberEats, Doordash).
          • Dating apps (Tinder, Grindr).
          • Games (Pokemon Go).
          • Social media apps (Instagram, Snapchat).
          • Instant messaging apps (WhatsApp, SMS).
          • Shopping (Target, Curbside).
          • Tracking apps (Find my phone, Find my friends).

Do the benefits of GPS spoofing outweigh the drawbacks? You’ll be the judge of that.

IP spoofing is the only safe and legal option, and you can use a service like CyberGhost VPN to swap your IP address. Your real-time location will still be visible through GPS, but it does wonders in keeping advertisers and cybercrooks off your tracks. IP spoofers like CyberGhost VPN also let you use location-based appswithout having them crash on you.

CyberGhost VPN is easy to use, and available on all major operating systems, so you can get a VPN for macOS , iOS, iPad, Windows, Android, and even your Smart TV.

 

Golden Rules to Make Tracking Almost Impossible

You won’t find a 100% guaranteed method to permanently disable tracking attempts on your devices. That said, you can take steps to mitigate tracking attempts, and protect your data from invasive practices.

Here are 7 handy tips to keep in mind.

    1. Turn on CyberGhost VPN before you go online. Encrypt your data and secure your activity from governments, advertisers, and cybercriminals.
    2. Read the privacy policy before using online services and apps.Check how your data is collected and for what purpose. Make sure the benefits outweigh the risks.
    3. Clear your browser history and cookies . Anything you do online can be used to track you. Clearing cookies prevents online services from uniquely identifying you.
    4. Use a private browser. Incognito mode doesn’t prevent trackers and doesn’t keep your activity hidden. Choose a private browser with a built-in tracker blocker.
    5. Use privacy-friendly search engines
    6. Secure your traffic on public Wi-Fi . Public Wi-Fi networks lack even the most basic security settings. That means cybercriminals can intercept your traffic and install trackers on your device. Use CyberGhost VPN to keep them at bay.
  • Be careful what you share on social media . Hashtags, check-ins, and shares help uniquely identify you and pinpoint your interests. Be mindful not to overshare.

FAQ

Is my phone tracking me?

Manufacturers never built smartphones with privacy in mind. By definition, smartphones are a tracking device constantly monitoring you. Both iOS and Android phones come with an advertiser ID, which uniquely identifies you and monitors your behavior.

It’s impossible to be 100% untraceable online even with the location services turned off. But you can still keep tracking to a minimum. Use services like CyberGhost VPN to encrypt your internet traffic, and protect your digital identity from snoopers and trackers.

Can my phone be tracked with location services off?

Your phone relies on many factors for location. Your IP address, GPS settings, SIM card, and phone carrier all help paint an accurate picture of where you are. If one service is under maintenance or otherwise unavailable, the other ones take over.

While you’ll never be 100% untraceable even with location services off, you can still keep tracking to a minimum.Use services like CyberGhost VPN, the Cookie Cleaner, and the Private Browser to protect yourself from trackers.

Can you fake GPS location on your phone?

Android and iOS phones don’t have settings that allow you to spoof your real location. Without your correct GPS information, many apps, including ride sharing, dating, and food delivery services won’t work properly. That’s why no manufacturer makes it easy to play around with location settings.

Some third-party services work as GPS spoofers, but keep in mind they’re illegal in some countries. Besides that, they don’t hide your IP address, so services can still pinpoint your real location.

Do privacy-friendly phones and devices exist?

Not all devices are equal. Your manufacturer and operating system have tracking capabilities to track your behavior. Librem and Fairphones are just two examples of phones that keep data collection to a minimum.

PureOS is a Debian-based Linux distribution that offers different options to protect your privacy, including disk encryption, the Tor browser, and automatic HTTPS redirects.

Can my phone be tracked if location services is off?

Yes, your phone can still be tracked with location services off. Location services are a way for apps to pull your GPS data to pinpoint your locations. It’s how Google Maps or food delivery apps know where you are. Turning location services off simply means apps can no longer access this data, not that the GPS signal is offline.

How do I stop being tracked?

It’s not possible to completely put a stop to tracking, but you can take steps to mitigate the data you’re generating for trackers to pick up on. Your IP address, GPS coordinates, SIM card data, and location services are all gateway to your data and your location. You should use a mobile VPNto encrypt your internet data, clear your browsing history and cookies, and avoid services collecting the data you don’t feel comfortable sharing. You can also choose a privacy-friendly phone to block some tracking attempts by default. Keep in mind services like GPS spoofers are illegal in some countries, so it’s not possible to completely prevent tracking.

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