Location services are a double-edged sword. Many apps use location tracking to provide features, but giving out too much location information can be dangerous. Here’s how to evaluate apps that use location services, and how to deactivate it when needed.
The problem with location services is that they reveal highly specific information about you. Location services have been used to blackmail and stalk people. Thieves use it to find out when people are away from home.
Apps often package and resell location information to third-party data brokers who use it for things such as targeted advertising. And even apps that gather location data for legitimate purposes are at risk of being hacked and having that data stolen.
Social media and location can be a particularly explosive combination. With the right tools, a stranger can find out exactly where you are at all times simply by following the breadcrumb trail of location information left behind by your phone.
Security experts recommend that you limit apps to the minimum amount of information they need to function. Ask yourself: Does this app really need my location? If it doesn’t, consider turning off location services for that app. A fitness tracking app likely uses your location to track your run. But a flashlight app has no need to know where you are.
If an app insists upon location information, look at the other information it’s requesting. Is it asking for other personal data it shouldn’t need? Apps that ask for unnecessary information often exist solely to collect consumer data. They’re hoping consumers won’t notice or, if they do, won’t have the technical know-how to tighten their security.
To manage location services on an iPhone or iPad, go to Settings and select Privacy, then Location Services. Here you can turn Location Services on or off, and manage access for each app. On Android, you’ll swipe down from the top of your screen and select the Location icon. Tap App Permission to access location services.
You have several options when it comes to granting access to your location. You can turn off the app’s access to location entirely, tell it to ask to activate location, or always keep location on for that app. For some apps, such as weather and fitness apps, it makes sense to leave location on all the time. When in doubt, you can set it to ask first.
Some apps may not work properly if you turn off location services. You may have to experiment a little to find out which ones work and which don’t. Remember not to turn off location services for system services such as Find My Device, which require them.
A final word of warning about location. When you take photos, they usually are geotagged with your location. If you post those photos on social media, it’s easy for someone to look at the photo’s hidden metadata and find the location where it was taken. This can lead criminals right to your doorstep. To remove this hidden location information, turn off geotagging in the location services settings for your phone’s camera.
• Triona Guidry is a freelance writer and consumer technology specialist offering tech support and advice for home computer users. For free weekly tips and news by email, subscribe to her Simple Tech Tips blog at www.lightningtechsupport.com/subscribe.