That didn’t take long. If you want more control over Android location tracking, Whispermonitor is for you.
Basically, any time an application tries to hit the Internet, it tells you where it’s going and on what port, and you can allow it once, always, or until reboot. Or deny it entirely.
It’s not what I’d call an app for casual users. If you’re not familiar with TCP/IP networking, it’s going to really bug you, because you’re going to have to answer a lot of questions–questions you may be ill-equipped to answer–whenever you use the phone, at least until you build up a ruleset. And you’ll get lots of opportunity to break stuff. If you’re comfortable with TCP/IP networking, you’ll just have to answer a lot of questions until you get the device trained. It reminds me a lot of the early versions of Zonealarm that people used before Windows started coming with its own firewall that didn’t ask tons of questions.
If you want complete control of your device, and want to use location based services and have complete control over them, this app will let you do that. But it’s definitely a power-user thing. I’d be willing to consider using it on a phone that only I use, since I’ve been involved in managing ports and protocols as part of my day to day job duties for much of the past decade. But there’s no way I’d put it on my wife’s phone, since all the questions would confuse and scare her more than they would help.
I don’t know how else you would do it, but I don’t like deploying these types of things to end users, because generally they’ll take to answering yes to everything, and end up with a firewall with so many holes in it, they might as well not have one at all and save the overhead.
I don’t necessarily begrudge phones doing some tracking, within reason, but I also think it’s good that there are ways to opt out of it. There’s a learning curve, but if you’re really paranoid about this sort of thing, then you probably ought to be learning something about ports and protocols and firewalls anyway, because it’s hard to protect yourself without that kind of knowledge.
David Farquhar is a computer security professional, entrepreneur, and author. He started his career as a part-time computer technician in 1994, worked his way up to system administrator by 1997, and has specialized in vulnerability management since 2013. He invests in real estate on the side and his hobbies include O gauge trains, baseball cards, and retro computers and video games. A University of Missouri graduate, he holds CISSP and Security+ certifications. He lives in St. Louis with his family.