James Goepel, JD, professor of cybersecurity law and strategy at Drexel University, Philadelphia, and founder of Fathom Cyber, a consulting company that assists companies with privacy and cybersecurity. FathomCyber.com
Bottom Line: You can make the problem go away with just a few clicks
Apps on your smartphone are tracking your location—even many apps that don’t need your location or ones that you seldom or never use. Knowing which ones track you and why can help preserve your privacy and keep your information out of the hands of criminals.
Location tracking is the rule, not the exception. Whatever the app category—social media, weather, news, travel, entertainment, educational, utilities, games and more—an app might routinely track your location and might not make it clear that it is doing so.
App companies and others make money on your location data. Apps can use location information to build profiles of your daily movements, the shops you frequent, where you park and even how fast you drive. They use this information for their own purposes and share or sell it to advertisers. And the more your data is shared, the more places it is stored and the easier it becomes for criminals to also acquire.
Not all location tracking is bad. Certain apps use location information for obvious and needed reasons, such as when you “check in” to a restaurant on social media or get directions from a navigational app.
Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Disabling all location tracking is rarely the right solution. You can’t get directions, local coupons or weather alerts if the apps don’t know where you are. When opening an app for the first time, if it asks for permission to see your location and you feel that there is no benefit to you, say no.
Find out which apps are monitoring your location data. With just a few clicks, you can unmask the apps that are tracking you. For iOS (Apple devices)…
To disable location services, go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services and toggle the “Location Services” switch. If you want some apps to access your location, leave Location Services enabled and grant permission app by app.
Android phones often have custom menus. A common way to disable location services on Android devices…
Go to Settings > Security & Location (you may have to click on “Advanced” first) > Location. Switch “Use Location” on or off or tap on App Level Permissions to grant permission to individual apps.