How Your Phone Tracks You

Your Smartphone Tracks Your Every Move

Smartphones are excellent at making your life easier. They are also a superb tool for tracking us as we take them everywhere we go. They supply us with information on where to eat and shop. But they are not just gathering information for you, they are collecting data about you and sending it off to the hardware manufacturer, apps, and advertisers. Your smartphone monitors and stores all kinds of information about your habits, behaviors, and preferences. It even tracks your purchases and location. It goes on all the time.

It is important to understand what data is being tracked about you and especially who it is being shared with. You may find that you need to remove apps or change permissions for apps on your phone. Sometimes you may want to change hardware for something less intrusive.

Your smartphone, laptop, and tablet are all capable of syncing information across devices. This cross-device tracking is a real boon for advertisers. They can then see how effective their advertising e-commerce campaigns are. It is common for shoppers to view a product on one device, but buy it alter a consideration phase. Cookies and tracking pixels enable apps and advertisers to understand user preferences and spending behavior.

Google and Google Owned Apps

Google Chrome is the Google web browser. Whether you log into your Google account or not, Chrome web browser is tracking your every move. Google also owns a few other apps you most likely know about. YouTube, the Google Play Store, Google Maps, Gmail, Google Docs and Drive all share the same login credentials. Your actions are tracked across each one to build a valuable portfolio of your data. Google logs your location, phone calls, the device type and more. Chrome logs what website you visited. If you are logged into a Google account using another browser, it tracks that data too.

For example, if you read your Gmail from the Firefox web browser, Google continues to collect data about you. If you log into any of Google apps from multiple devices, then you are supplying even more data about everything from purchases to restaurants visited. All of this data is used by advertisers and is Google’s main source of income.

Google does offer the ability to manage your privacy and data sharing settings. Read our post about how to reduce or stop the amount of data collected from your phone. You’ll find, however, that you won’t be able to use many features unless you are willing to share your data with Google. So, you must pay to play with your personal information.

Apple

Apple is not as data mongering as Google. Much of your data is retained on your phone and kept living on your phone without being sent back to Apple. However, if you use a Google App on your IOS device, you will once again be sending data back to the mama Alphabet.

Biometrics such as the images used in Apple’s Face ID, are also stored on the phone and not sent to Apple or stored on iCloud.

Social Media

Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Twitter and other social media channels collect data about their users. Tracking pixels are used to track your behavior on and off the app.

If you want to see which app is tracking you on your Android phone then open up your smartphone’s setting and look at each app, the permission it has, and what type of information it has access to. This won’t tell you where it is sending the data, but it will give you an idea of what type of data the app is collecting. To see where your data is going, then you will have to read the terms of service and privacy policies of each app.

Of course, that is dependent upon the app creator being honest about what it is accessing. Facebook is under fire now for burying its data harvesting practices in pages of legalese. Uber was caught manipulating data on its app to fool local authorities and monitor employees’ romantic interests.

Location Data

Location tracking is gold as far as data mining goes. Smartphones track as well as how it is oriented – portrait or landscape. If you take a look at your Google Maps timeline, you’ll see that your phone tracked where you were, how fast you traveled, and mode of transportation, Scary, right? This is used by advertising channels like AdWords and Facebook to prove to advertisers that a paid advert was indeed successful. Ye, it can be used to improve your user experience, but it is a revenue generator.

Browsers

Web browsers are the originals when it comes to tracking user behavior. Data tracked by browsers like Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari and others include the web pages visited, purchases, credit card data, and location data.

Even if you are not logged in, the browser can set cookies to store your browsing history and behaviors. Creating an account and logging in each time allows for cross-device tracking and better data. This data is used by advertisers to send you advertisements.