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Some apps, like Facebook, LinkedIn, Tinder, etc., seem to have a mechanism to remember which Android phone installed their app. So if a user is banned on these apps, the next time somebody creates an account on the same Android phone, that account is flagged or even banned automatically.

What is the way to make sure the app forgets that my Android phone was used previously with a banned account? I tried to clear the cache and delete app data, then uninstall the re-install the app, but it still remembers! I tried it on different IP addresses, but the same issue is there.

Does the app have access to the IMEI of the phone!??

I am on Android v10.

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  • you said u tried clearing cache. Did u clear its data? (when u open storage of the app in settings there are 2 options clear data & clear cache). If yes then try parallel space and tell if that works..
    – Aayush
    Nov 24 '20 at 11:03
  • @Aayush yes i said i deleted the app data. and no parallel space had the same problem.
    – Lun
    Nov 24 '20 at 13:56
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    You are somewhat giving the impression that you aren't clear on the distinction between an app that provides an interface for a service, and the service itself. Nov 25 '20 at 0:51
  • @Acccumulation but the service should ban (if it so wishes) an user, not a device. I'd totally expect to be able to log in using a different account if mine was banned, regardless of the device I'm using. It would be totally legitimate if multiple people are using the same device (more common with a computer, but can definitely happen on a phone too).
    – Massimo
    Nov 26 '20 at 11:28
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tl:dr; addressing OP's question - sorry, no way AFAIK. From Android 10 onwards normal apps can't access IMEI number.

Revised answer with additional inputs from Izzy (thanks)

How do apps (Google or third party) identify you?

Apps identify a device using:

  • Some or all of device identifiers, mainly Android ID, GSF Android ID, build serial number, and advertising ID. I know of one paid app which tracks IMEI too (before Android 10). It depends on the developer as to how badly they want to identify you and prevent installation of apps. See this excellent write up by Izzy (a moderator here) for more details Android Identifiers: How Android devices and their users are identified. It is rare that an app depends only on one type of identification. I have observed over the last three years that shopping , banking, social media & social media related apps are particularly nasty and use every trick in the book.

  • In addition to this apps come packaged with trackers and loggers (all utilities which are used to log user activity on an app or logcat in general), which identify the user and their browsing patterns , in addition to fingerprinting user by device identification. These can be used for benign purposes in theory but in practice can extend to key logging features that can track what you type. Have a look at Staggering variety of clandestine trackers found in popular Android apps.

What happens to this data?

Those identifiers are stored on third-party servers (analytics companies and other "big data collectors" such as Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, etc.) – so once collected, there's no chance you can delete that. Some offer an opportunity to sign out, but there is no way you can have that data deleted. Even if it is legally possible under GDPR (which I doubt), it is not a trivial task to get this implemented across hundreds of trackers/loggers.

How can I prevent from being tracked/ identified?

Root is a must for full control over this menace (see ) That's the unfortunate part. Without root you can only choose apps with care and probably try some hacks which in the long run aren't effective or at best partially useful.

  • Choose the apps you want to install with care: Up to a degree, apps like TrackerControl or Warden can help. Ideally, you avoid apps including trackers; Exodus Privacy is a good helper for that – and Izzy's app listings use such services to "mark" apps, making it easier for you to sort the wheat from the chaff.

  • Feed them faked information: This approach is better than denying permissions because it doesn't result in malfunctioning apps or apps that crash. Highly recommend you to use XPrivacyLua being the most effective broad spectrum measure. This requires EdXposed to be installed from Android 8 and above (see the restrictions section to see what can be faked). If you are on earlier versions Xprivacy by the same developer does the job with Xposed. Even XPrivacyLua can't help in instances when the app code is obfuscated.

    The Warden app mentioned above can also "nuke" your device, making it free from trackers and loggers. It also gives you flexibility to tackle apps on individual basis. The Warden App Manager uses a static list of trackers and loggers compiled by French non-profit Exodus Privacy.

While Android has been showing greater concern for privacy and PII information over the last few versions, this problem is not significantly mitigated even in Android 11 (no prizes for guessing why. Google is probably the biggest data aggregator).

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I don't know exactly how each app implements this but I wold assume that they use the ANDROID_ID. Each app gets an ID that does not change.

ANDROID_ID is a random number generated on first boot after factory reset.

On old devices all apps (with the appropriate permission) can get access to this ID. The ID is the same for all apps.

On modern devices each app gets an app-unique ID that is derived from the ANDROID_ID. This means the ID the app sees does not change no matter how often you(un)install the app.

Only if the ANDROID_ID changes the app will see a new ID. Therefore you can perform a factory reset, that force creation a new ANDROID_ID. As far as I remember restoring a backup should also restore the old ANDROID_ID.

On rooted devices you can directly manipulate the system wide respectively the app-specific ANDROID_ID:

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  • Thanks. So how can I check whether an app gets permission to access ANDROID_ID or not and can I deny it?
    – Lun
    Nov 24 '20 at 14:00
  • You can't prohibit that an app accesses this ID.
    – Robert
    Nov 24 '20 at 15:16
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    "generated on first boot after factory reset" does that mean that doing a full factory reset on the phone will generate a new ID? Sure, it means reinstalling everything on the phone & reconfiguring it all, but if the OP is that desperate to reinstall an app that bans, that should do the trick, right?
    – FreeMan
    Nov 24 '20 at 18:34
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    @FreeMan As beeshyams pointed out in his post there are other identifier that can be used, too. Vut a factory reset should work as long as the apps don't get access to info from SIM card or the phone hardware (IMEI). Also keep in mind that apps from the same company (or affiliated companies) might work together which means restoring the data of one app might "restore" the link to the old ID.
    – Robert
    Nov 24 '20 at 18:41
  • This falls into the "worth a try, but not guaranteed" category, then...
    – FreeMan
    Nov 24 '20 at 18:43
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You might need to use a completely different Google account to sign into your phone. It would be interesting to see if a friend is able to log in to their account using your phone; but before risking getting their account banned keep reading.

If the problem revolves around creating a new account using your phone's app and having that account banned then you should try using a different device such as a computer or a display phone at the store to create a new account and then log into that account on your phone.

It would be a little short-sighted for a company to ban a device outright because if you sell it then you would have to disclose to the buyer which apps are banned on the device which in turn devalues your device.

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