Have you ever noticed that the advertisements you see online are related to your recent activity?
Most people know that cookies are tracking us across the internet. However, your phone tracks you in more ways than you may realize.
When you install apps like Facebook, you’ll notice that they request access to multiple parts of your phone – like your microphone. Officially, Facebook needs access to your microphone because it needs to record your voice when shooting video or sending audio messages in Messenger.
But does Facebook secretly track and record you in other situations?
In 2016, Facebook denied these claims, saying, that their platform “does not use your phone’s microphone to inform adds or to change what you see in News Feed.”
Facebook is likely telling the truth. After all, it’s relatively easy to test and measure things like this. Nevertheless, Facebook’s data policy says things like,
“We use all of the information we have about you to show you relevant ads. We do not share information that personally identifies you with advertising partners, unless you give us permission.”
How to Revoke Permission to Intrusive Tracking Apps
Whether you trust Facebook or not, it’s a good idea to know which apps have access to sensitive parts of your phone.
You may trust Facebook with access to your camera and microphone, for example. But you probably shouldn’t give some random mobile game the same privileges.
To revoke permissions from apps, follow the steps below:
Settings > Privacy > Microphone
From this menu, you can scan through the list of apps that have access to your microphone. If the app has active access, then you’ll see a microphone beside the app’s name. Toggle that button off to revoke microphone access.
Settings > Applications > Application Manager >
From here, look for apps like Facebook, then tap on “Permissions” from the next menu. Turn off microphone access.
You can repeat these steps for all apps on your phone. Scan through the list of apps and see which apps have appropriate permissions. You might be surprised at some of the permissions requested by apps. There’s rarely any need for your weather app, for example, to access your microphone or camera.
Beware of “Permission Creep” to Prevent Smartphone Tracking
Many apps will use “permission creep” to gain more information about users.
You download and install an app on your phone. The app requests basic permissions. You accept the permissions because they’re innocent and non-intrusive. The app might request internet access, for example.
Once the app has enough users, however, it will try to monetize that userbase by requesting more and more permissions. App developers know users aren’t as careful when looking at new permission requests from existing apps as they are when downloading an app for a first time.
This is called “permission creep”, and it’s a big reason why you should follow the steps listed above to prevent smartphone tracking.
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