What Types of Apps Track Your Location?

Tips & Advice

Your mobile phone can do so many things, thanks to the wonders of technology. One of those things is having very accurate information about your location. In fact, some apps have to know your location to work.  

Of course, you can’t expect Google Maps to function as it should without tracking your location. But you’re right to question why a messaging app like WhatsApp needs to know your whereabouts. When it comes to protecting your online privacy, the less information that third parties have about you, the better. 

Keep reading to learn which mobile apps have location tracking and how you can revoke their access. 

How to see which apps are tracking your location 

On an iPhone, apps can track your location, but only after giving them access first. Here’s how to check which apps can monitor your location:  

  1. Open the “Settings” app and click on “Privacy” to see a list of apps that have requested access to your location data. 
  2. Click on “Location Services.” This will show you every app that can request access to your location. You’ll also see if you’ve given any apps permission to track your location. Note that the permission you give to apps to access your location can be at all times or only when you’re using the app.  
  3. To check into a specific app, tap it. You’ll see what permission you’ve granted — the active one will have a checkmark. There are three options: 
  • Never: The app isn’t ever allowed to access your location data. 
  • When using the app: Whenever you open the app and use it, it’ll be able to track your whereabouts. 
  • Always: This means the app can access your location data at all times, whether you’re using it or not. 

If you have an Android device, you can check what permissions you’ve given to the app following these steps:  

  1. Go to “Settings.”  
  2. Then, go to “Apps & Notifications.”  
  3. Select an app, tap “Permissions,” and tap on the triple-dot icon.  
  4. Click on “All Permission” and scroll down to the Location section.  

You’ll see the GPS tracking permissions you’ve granted. The apps you’ve allowed access to your location all the time will be under “Allowed all the time.” The apps that can track you while you’re using them will be under “Allowed only while in use.” And you’ll find the apps you’ve never granted permission under “Not allowed.” 

How to stop apps from tracking your location

Remember that some apps need location data to function properly. For instance, a navigation app like Apple Maps isn’t very useful if it doesn’t know where you are. 

But whenever you want to turn off location tracking for particular apps, you can simply cancel their access. 

If you have an iOS device, follow these steps:  

  1. Open “Settings.”  
  2. Tap “Privacy” and click on “Location Services.”  
  3. Next, tap the app you want to change the location setting for.  
  4. Then, select the option you want, like “Always,” “While using,” or “Never.” 

To change the location setting for apps on an Android phone:  

  1. Tap on “Settings.”  
  2. Then, tap on “Apps & Notifications.”  
  3. Pick an app and tap on “Permissions.”  
  4. Switch “Location” to on or off. 

Common types of apps with location tracking

There are many reasons apps need to know your location history, such as personalizing your app experience. Not to mention that location tracking apps like Find My iPhone and family location-sharing apps like Life360 are very helpful for family members to keep track of their loved one’s location.  

But simply speaking, the main reason apps track your location is because it’s profitable. Your information is sold to marketers, making it easier to show you ads you should be interested in.   

This is why it’s always a good idea to check what apps access your location information. So, check them regularly, following the steps laid out above.  

Common apps to watch for location tracking include: 

Map apps

Of course, navigation apps need to know your current location so that they can direct you to where you want to go. Getting access to your real-time location allows them to give you turn-by-turn directions. The apps also use a GPS tracker to help you find establishments like restaurants or gas stations nearby.  

Ride-hailing apps

Ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft use your GPS location to let drivers know where to pick you up. Be careful about ride-hailing apps, though, because their tracking features are made to monitor your movement in the background. This means they can access your location all the time, even when the apps aren’t active.  

So, if you’re not a regular ride-hail user, check these phone tracking apps when you’re not using them and turn off the location settings until you need them again. 

Social media

Like most free apps, social media apps collect personal and location data so they can learn who you are. And everything they know about you is used for advertising purposes. This is why you might get “find my friends” suggestions and ads about cafes, stores, and everything else that’s available in your area.  

Something to be aware of is that the ways social media apps like Facebook ask for permission to access your location data aren’t always straightforward. For instance, if you’re posting a photo, the app will ask you to “Turn on Location Services” to add a geo-tag. And if you do, they’ve got the green light to track your whereabouts.  

News and weather apps

When you check the news and weather forecast by using an app, the app asks for your location to provide you with information based on where you are.  

Giving these apps your location can help with the user experience since you won’t have to search for local news or weather updates. But not giving the apps access to your phone location doesn’t affect how they operate.  

Coupon apps

Coupon apps like Flipp want as much information from you as possible to personalize your experience. Location sharing helps these apps provide you with the closest stores to shop and ongoing sales near you. 

In the case of coupon apps, geofencing helps in their marketing quite a lot. With geofencing, apps use radio frequency identification (RFID), Wi-Fi, and GPS location to send ads at exactly the right moment to a target device. The ad can be sent as an SMS, email, or app notification when a cellphone enters or leaves a geofence.  

An example would be a text message that says, “Today only! Spend $50 and get the item of the day for $0.99!” when a customer enters a grocery store.  

Streaming apps

Streaming apps like Netflix and Spotify may ask for your location so that you don’t get access to geo-restricted content. For instance, live streaming TV apps need your location to confirm regional blackouts and other features. But other than that, they don’t necessarily need to monitor your location to work. 

Insurance apps

Car insurance companies have found a way to use technology by offering discounts to clients who allow them to collect personal information and share location data. Some of the information they want include your phone use while driving, how fast you drive, or how sharply you brake. Insurance companies claim that their phone tracker apps collect data to reward good behavior and avoid accidents. 

See how McAfee Security for Mobile keeps your device safe

Our mobile phones are one of our most valuable possessions because we rely on them to get us through the day. That’s why it’s important to understand how information about you and your activities is used, shared, and sold.  

 

The good news is that you can protect your digital life with McAfee Mobile Security, which allows you to connect safely and seamlessly to the digital world with a virtual private network (VPN). You’ll also have access to an antivirus app that regularly scans for online threats like malware.  

 

This means you can use public hotspots, make bank transactions, and surf the web in a safe space. McAfee helps protect your credentials and personal information so that you can continue to enjoy the internet your way.  

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