Many users have various concerns regarding online security and privacy. One of the most common questions is “Can I control the location information shown to me on my smartphone?”
The short answer is “No.”
Whether you’re using public Wi-Fi while out and about or you’re connecting to a Wi-Fi network at home, your location is always going to be accessible to anyone who wants to look for you. This includes things like your physical location or the location of nearby Wi-Fi hotspots.
Now, it’s possible to stop people from knowing your precise location if you use tools like VPNs (Virtual Private Networks). When you connect to a VPN, all of your Internet traffic is sent through a secure connection—changing your IP (Internet Protocol) address randomly, ensuring that your real identity is never revealed. This prevents snooping by hackers, data thieves, and ISPs (Internet Service Providers)—though it doesn’t prevent law enforcement from requesting your personal data if they have a court order or search warrant.
VPNs are great for security and privacy because they prevent eavesdropping, limit the information that can be gathered about you, and change your location so that you can’t be tracked.
Whether you’re using a public or private connection, it’s possible to restrict the data that others can see about you when you’re connected to a VPN. In turn, this means that even if you’re physically located in a different place to where your VPN is located, your data will still be protected.
Set Up Avast for VPN
If you’re new to VPNs, setting one up can be a bit tricky. Fortunately, there are several fantastic apps that can be used to manage your VPN connection easily and securely. These include NordVPN, ProtonVPN, and PureVPN—three of the most popular VPN services. For this tutorial, we’ll be focusing on Avast VPN, as it’s free and open source, which makes it one of the most popular choices for users seeking privacy online.
To start, download and install the App from the Google Play Store. Once you’ve done that, tap the menu button in the upper-right corner of the screen and choose Settings. From here, you’ll want to enter your email address and create a new password for your VPN account—make sure to choose a strong password. Next, you’ll need to enable the VPN service in Settings—choose the On option and then trust the app again by hitting the Trust button.
Use the App to Access Your VPN Settings
Once the VPN is enabled, you’ll need to open the App again and navigate to the Settings screen. From here, you can change a number of settings to customize your connection as much or as little as you want. If you’re using public Wi-Fi, you can choose to keep your VPN connection active even when you’re connected to a cellular network to ensure that your data is always protected. Simply choose one of the three plan options (Free, Social, or Business), set the auto-approve switch to On, and then hit the Trust button to save your changes.
The default options for the Connect to VPN screen are more than sufficient for most users. For example, the Free plan enables you to connect to any server you want, but it won’t throttle your Internet connection or offer a specific set of features. In fact, it doesn’t even require a username or password—just tap the Connect to VPN button and you’re connected in a matter of seconds.
Now, you might be wondering what all of these settings mean, so let’s take a quick look at each one.
Keep Your VPN Active While on Cellular Data
If you’re using a smartphone and you notice that the internet connection slows down or stops when you’re on a cellular network—that is, if you don’t have a strong Wi-Fi connection in sight—then your VPN is the culprit. This is because most cellular networks will drop your VPN connection to ensure that your data doesn’t go through a potentially dangerous proxy server while on the other side of the connection.
To prevent this from happening, you’ll need to turn off your VPN (either completely or while on a cellular network—choose which one you prefer), as your IP address will still be visible to anyone who wants to look for you. To turn off the VPN on a smartphone, you’ll need to go to the App menu, choose Settings, and then toggle the VPN switch to Off. On newer models, you’ll need to go to the Settings app, navigate to the Connections tab, and then toggle the VPN switch to Off.
Only Release My Identities When Necessary
Even if you use a VPN to protect your identity on the Internet, it’s still possible for your real identity to be revealed if you’re connected to a third party—even if that party isn’t directly associated with the data breach. For example, if you’re using public Wi-Fi and some hacker spies on your activity, they might be able to figure out that it’s you based on your IP address. Using a VPN isn’t a replacement for using a secure password and choosing a secure browser—neither of which offer complete protection.
Use Your VPN to Browse the Web More Securely
When you’re using a VPN to secure your connection to the Internet, changing your IP address randomly often prevents cookies from being set by websites, preventing them from collecting information about you. This, in turn, makes it more difficult for websites to track your activities across the web.
Additionally, the more VPNs you connect to, the greater the chance that you’ll appear to be coming from a different place—allowing you to access sites that you might not normally be able to. For example, connecting to a VPN that’s based in the UK may allow you to access content that’s only available to people in the UK—such as Hulu or Netflix shows—unless you change your IP address to one that’s associated with the content’s region.
Keeping your VPN active even when you’re not using it can also prevent websites from setting cookies on your device. To do this, ensure that your internet connection is active and then open the VPN app. From here, you can toggle the On/Off switch to turn the VPN on or off when needed. Connecting to a VPN may also prevent ads, trackers, and malware from being stored on your device.
Use Your VPN to Unblock Websites and Services
One of the best things about a VPN is that, when connected, it gives you the ability to access services and sites that are usually blocked by your country’s internet service provider. It’s common for countries to block certain sites or services for political reasons, religious beliefs, or both—creating a digital version of the “Great Firewall of China” that prevents users from accessing certain websites.
If you live in a country where certain services and sites are blocked, you can use a VPN to gain access to them. For example, using a VPN to access Google Play Music may allow you to listen to the streaming service’s songs regardless of whether or not your country’s internet service provider is blocking it. You can also use a VPN to get around websites and services that are blocked by your library or school—changing your IP address as you connect to different servers around the world to ensure that you can access content regardless of where you are.
Use Your VPN to Secure Email
It’s common for users to be concerned about the security of their email—especially as email attachments have become such a huge part of the digital age.
With so much sensitive information sent through email, it’s important to keep your email secure—and using a VPN is one of the best ways to do this. When you’re using a VPN to secure email, all of your traffic is encrypted, preventing hackers, data thieves, and even your own government from accessing your emails—even if they have a warrant.
Encrypting your email is easy—simply use the Settings menu in the Gmail app to reach the Encrypting Email option on the General tab. Simply check the Encrypting Email option, set a passcode to protect your account, and then hit the Save button to complete the process.
Make All Your Internet Traffic Anonymous
If you want to ensure that no one can trace your Internet activity, use a VPN to connect to a server in a different country to where you are. This prevents the traffic from being monitored and allows you to access content that might be banned in your country.