Looking over your shoulders lately? These days, someone is always hot on your digital trails. If it isn’t tech leviathans like Google and Facebook, it’s some random news sites you came across on BuzzFeed or your employers.
While location tracking might seem innocuous at face value, there are deeper problems to it than you might think. If those tracking you aren’t using your data for research, they might be selling it to anyone at a price.
Even when they have genuine intentions, they could lose your data to malicious actors if their database is exposed to security breaches.
If you’re not really digitally savvy, you could easily give away your location and other personal details online without batting an eye. Your devices come with location tracking activated by default – at least for the manufacturers.
If you do turn off default location settings, you’d still have to remain vigilant when interacting with various sites and software because you just might just permit their location trackers without knowing it.
5 Reasons to Secure Your Geolocation
Data privacy problems have come to characterize the evil side of mobile technology. They’ve become a major cause for concern not only for people who think their data may be exploited for selfish reasons but for parents who fear their kids may be manipulated using their data.
If you’re still taking things lightly, here are some reasons why you should be guarding your geolocation almost like your life depends on it:
Prying Eyes of Unauthorized Third Parties
Many apps and websites don’t ask for your permission before handing your GPS data over to third parties in illicit trades. In turn, these third parties can also sell your data behind your back. You never could tell how many times your personal data has changed hands on the dark web.
Profiling By Unknown Parties
We’re not just talking about your location data. Sometimes, your location data could just be a small component in a large set of personal data compiled by unknown parties. Heck, a full data set painting a clear picture of your identity and everyday life could be accessible to malicious actors.
Spy App Location Tracking
Sometimes, the main concern might not be disclosure to unknown parties on the dark web but to someone close to you. With spy apps, anyone can lift your location data and other personal information directly from your phone.
Stalkerware and Annoying Retargeting Ads
Ever found yourself suddenly swamped with ads of certain products and services right after talking about them for the first time with your friends online? Companies or brands can quickly get wind of your potential interests and double down on you with annoying retargeted ads.
Negative Behavioral Influences
Grown adults may not easily fall for retargeted ads. But what about our kids and impressionable ones? Companies can use retargeting campaigns to suggest content and ideas that have toxic influences on your kids.
Turn Location ‘On’ Or ‘Off’ On Your Phone
All this isn’t to imply that location tracking is never a good thing. It could be useful for many reasons. For starters, companies like Google offer a bunch of useful services that require active location tracking, such as:
- Emergency Location Service. Sendes out your location to emergency response teams when you’re in danger.
- Earthquake alerts. Notifies you of impending natural disasters in your locality.
- Location-based search. Generates search results based on your location.
- Google Maps Location sharing.
Unfortunately, other apps could have access to your location data without your knowledge when you activate location tracking for good reasons. It can be quite challenging to prevent this because you might need to audit the location settings of these apps individually – each requiring different steps.
But when you turn off your location on your general phone setting, you significantly minimize the possibility of giving out your data to unknown parties. Most third-party geolocation applications like Localize.mobi can track you only when your phone’s location is active.
To turn off your phone’s location:
- Open the Quick Settings drop-down menu on your home screen by swiping down from the top of the screen.
- Press down on the location icon (if there isn’t one, hit the edit icon or setting icon and drag the location icon into the Quick Settings). The icon dims out once it’s deactivated and lights up when you press down again to reactivate it.
Disable Google Tracking
Unfortunately, it takes more than deactivating your location on your Quick Settings to get Google and the rest off your back. Google still tracks your location through many other features on your phone. For instance, the Timeline feature on Google Maps keeps a well-detailed log of every location you’ve visited.
However, you can rein in Google’s extensive tracking initiatives whenever you want. If you’re not satisfied with curbing access to certain personal data, you can stop them dead in their tracks.
Manage Data on Your Timeline
Google Maps’ Timeline is one of the primary places where Google records your location information. To determine which information goes into your Timeline records:
- Launch Google Maps, hit your profile picture in the top-right corner of the screen, and then go to ‘Timeline’ from the main menu.
- Start with the ‘Date’ category to delete information saved on certain dates. You can also delete data from specific locations by clicking on the ‘Places’ category. Or you could just tap on the ‘History’ page to review all the stored information.
Delete All Location Data
If you don’t have the time to sort through each data point, you can clear all your location information at once.
- Open Google Maps, click on your profile picture, and then “Location History.”
- Select “See and Delete activity.”
- On the next page, tap on the menu button and select “Settings → Delete all location history.”
Note, however, that this only takes care of previously recorded location history, and Maps will continue to collect new location data. But you can choose to have your data deleted periodically.
To do that:
- Run Google Maps, open the main menu, and then select ‘Your Timeline.’
- Hit the three dots on the top-right of your screen and then select ‘Settings and Privacy.’
- Tap the ‘Automatically delete location history’ options, and then choose a deletion interval. We recommend deleting every few months.
To halt Google Map’s location tracking totally:
- Open Google Maps, and then tap on your profile picture.
- Tap on the ‘Your data in Maps” option.
- Toggle off the ‘Location History’ switch and confirm your settings.
Check Your Cell Phone For Spyware
Think someone is tracking your location with a spy app? Some tell-tale signs of spyware infection on the phone include batteries draining faster, weird noises during calls, the phone behaving abnormally when booting, and apps with suspicious names in the app drawer.
Whether it’s from a curious boss, jealous partners, or stalkers, here are some effective ways to dislodge geolocation applications from your phone:
For Android Users
The first thing to do is check your app drawer for apps with names bearing terms related to tracking, such as “stealth,” “tracker,” “spy.”
- Open ‘Settings → Apps & Notifications → See all apps (or All apps).
- Look up any app with suspicious names on the internet. If you can’t find anything on them, delete them immediately.
- Alternatively, you can conduct the auditing using Google Play Store’s Google Play Protect feature. Open “Settings → Security & Location → Google Play Protect → Scan.” The feature will then scan for any suspicious apps.
For iOS Users
iOS devices come with factory settings that prevent apps from being downloaded from sources outside the App Store. However, there are many spyware on the App Store that pass off as harmless apps (often marketed as parental control apps). To check if any such apps have been installed on your device:
- Open the App Store and then search for apps with names bearing ‘Spy’ or related terms. Check the ‘Open’ list of the result. Any app that shows up there is already running on your phone.
- Check for the app’s icon on your app menu, press down on it and tap the “Remove App” option.
As a last resort, you can try a factory reset. This dislodges every app or file that didn’t come out of the box, including any spyware.
5 Tips to Hide Location on Your Phone
There are many ways that you can give out your location data without knowing. However, some tips can protect you from such mistakes:
- Use a Virtual Private Network. Whenever you’re browsing unknown sites, it’s always advisable to use a VPN.
- Delete and Deactivate Cookies. Some sites place cookies on your phone to track not only your location but a host of other personal information.
- Use Anti-Tracking Software. These software can notify you of or automatically prevent any attempt by software or website to track your location or personal data.
- Avoid Social Networks. Most social networks and their advertisement clients track you at every turn on their platform. Minimize your activities on these networks and deactivate any feature that requires location data like geotagging.
Securing your GPS data protects not only sensitive personal details but your sanity. People who can gain access to your data can manipulate you or share your data with those who shouldn’t be aware of your whereabouts.
Though you can benefit from location services in many different ways, the risks might outweigh the rewards. If you ever feel insecure about the integrity of your personal details, our location tracker remover guide can always be a good reference.