A reader is worried about the appearance of an unwanted COVID-19 tracking app on his phone.

“I have an android phone and on Friday I noticed that without my agreement or knowledge, a COVID-19 tracer app had been installed. Although it is not active, I want to remove the app until such time as I think fit. The app was installed by Google and I live in the UK. Can you help?”

I’ve had a lot of questions lately about how COVID-19 tracking apps work. Basically, they keep track of locations you’ve visited and notify you if a case of COVID-19 is reported in connection with that location. For example, if you regularly go to a store and they report that a cashier has tested positive, you would receive a notification about a possible exposure.

Or, if someone voluntarily chooses to report they’ve tested positive, folks who’d been at the same locations at the same time as that person would be notified about a possible exposure. While some people might like that type of information, others think it violates their privacy.

And it is annoying for an app to be installed without your permission.  Let me show you how to get rid of it.

These steps should work for any app you wish to remove or adjust permissions for.

Start by opening Settings on your phone.

settings-icon

Scroll down to Apps. Tap to open.

apps-android

Scroll down to the app you want to get rid of. Since I don’t have the COVID tracking app, I’ll use my Alexa app as an example. Tap the app.

pick-alexa

Tap on Uninstall to remove.

uninstall-alexa

Some apps are built into your Android system and you won’t be allowed to remove them. If this is the case, scroll down to Permissions and tap to open.

permissions

Shut off location tracking and the app won’t be able to report where you’ve been. You can also shut off notifications.

location-tracking