Android 15 may let you block your location from your cell phone carrier

Your cell phone knows a lot about you. One particularly sensitive piece of data your phone routinely broadcasts is your location. Apps beg for access, hungry to pinpoint where you spend your time – home, work, or that new coffee shop around the corner. It’s enough to make a privacy-minded person shiver.

Luckily, Android has settings to curb this behavior, but sadly, they don’t apply to your cellular carrier. The company behind your monthly bill knows generally where you are at all times. But, as discovered by Android Authority’s Mishaal Rahman, a glimmer of hope may be in the horizon with Android 15, potentially giving you a shield against unwanted location sharing.

The technical nitty-gritty on HAL (Hardware Abstraction Layer)

When an app wants your location on Android, it uses the operating system’s tools, which the OS can easily grant or deny. Phone manufacturers, though, don’t build every single piece of your device. That super important cellular radio that keeps you connected? It often has its own firmware that Android can only really poke at in specific ways. The new superpower coming to Android 15 will let your phone block your location from the device’s cellular radio unless it’s a true emergency.Now, cellular location tracking is complex. Your phone might tell the network where it is to get a better fix, or the network could force your phone to reveal its position without you even knowing. This last type is typically reserved for emergencies. Thankfully, Android 15 wants to stop the network from spying on you outside those dire scenarios.

This change won’t make your phone invisible, though. Using just which towers you connect to, your carrier can still guesstimate where you are. And this whole new feature depends on the cellular radio’s manufacturer adding support for it, which is not a given (especially on older phones). At least Google’s Pixel devices, with their custom chips, should play along nicely.

This Android 15 update will be welcomed, but the fight for true location privacy isn’t over. It might even help protect against those nasty “Stingray” devices that try to steal phone data by playing pretend cell towers. While it’s a step forward, expect carriers and clever app developers to find other ways to peek at where you are.

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