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Stop Sharing: How to opt-out of some data tracking features on your smartphone or device

Some companies use your data to target you for ads and other services 

June 17, 2021

Connected devices, like the phone in your pocket or the home hub that controls your kitchen lights, can make life easier, but they can also collect your personal information, follow your every move, and more.  

Companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and others gather your personal information and movements and use them to generate targeted ads influenced by your day-to-day activities. In addition to these targeted ads, tech companies use your information to enhance and increase their own products and services.  

Recently, Amazon launched Sidewalk, a platform that extends internet service between Amazon devices, like the Echo device or Ring doorbell. When your devices are powered on and active, the wireless signals that reach beyond your home allow other Amazon devices to connect to your network automatically, even those not owned by you. Amazon enabled Sidewalk for all its devices on June 8.  

But you don’t have to share all your information, or participate in Sidewalk. In many cases, you can take steps to at least curb some data tracking activity.  

Most smartphones allow users to change privacy settings to control whether ads will be targeted based on your usage and browsing history. The Federal Trade Commission offers several tips to protect your privacy online:

Reset Advertising Identifiers – Under you phone’s privacy settings, you may find a setting for “advertising.” Under that section, you may find the ability to reset advertising identifiers. These unique identifiers are used to track you. By resetting this identifier, any data associated with your previous advertising identifier will not be linked to your new identifier.  

Limit App Tracking – Before installing an app, check the Google Play or Apple App store page for the app to see what permissions it requires. Once you install the app on your device, a pop-up window should ask for permission for specific tracking measures, such as keeping tabs on your location while using the app.  

Recently Apple devices began requiring developers to ask permission to track your activity across apps and websites, Vox reports. As you use an app, you’ll receive a pop-up notice asking if you want to allow the app to track your activity. If you decline, the app won’t be able to access your device’s advertising identifier.

Even if you opt-out of these app tracking services, be sure to check your app permissions regularly through your phone’s settings, the FTC suggests.

Update Location Controls – Many companies access your device location to send you ads based on where you are. Your device’s location controls let you limit the sharing of this information. These controls are typically found under the “location services” section in your privacy settings.  

Stop Ad Personalization –  In the privacy settings of your smartphone, you may find the option to turn off personalized ads. This tells your phone to stop using your information to show targeted ads. You'll still received ads on browsers and social media networks, but they just won’t be tailored to your location, past searches, and other online activity.  

Opt-out Directly – Many tech companies allow users to opt-out directly. For example, consumers who don’t want to participate in Amazon’s Sidewalk can simply choose to turn off the option in the settings of their Alexa mobile app, which serves as a hub for all their Amazon connected-devices.  

For more tips on how to protect your privacy online, through apps, and on your connected devices, visit the Federal Trade Commission website. 

Click the above video from the Federal Trade Commission to learn more about how your information is shared each day.

File a report:  

If you have concerns about online security, file a report with the Iowa Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at or 515-281-5926 (in Des Moines area) or 888-777-4590 (outside the metro area). 

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