iOS & OS X: Locking Down Location Services

| TMO Quick Tip

It's no secret that apps on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch can track your location, but you may not realize Mac apps can do the same, too. You can, however, control which apps know where you are on both platforms, and it's easy to do.

iOS Location Services
To see which apps are using Location Services on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, do this:

  • Tap Settings
  • Tap Privacy
  • Tap Location Services

You can disable Location Services system-wideYou can disable Location Services system-wide

From here, you can enable or disable Location Services for all apps at once, or on an app-by-app basis. While disabling Location Services completely is great for helping keep where you are private, you won't be able to take photos because the feature is required when storing images in your Camera Roll.

Location Services show which apps are tracking where you areLocation Services show which apps are tracking where you are

Instead of disabling the feature completely, I scanned through the Location Services app list and left it active only for specific apps. For apps that I wasn't comfortable giving location data, or apps that were killing my battery (like the recent Google app update with Google Now support that constantly tracks where you are), I shut off Location Services.

OS X Location Services
To see which apps are using Location Services on your Mac, do this:

  1. Go to Apple menu > System Preferences
  2. Click Security & Privacy
  3. Click the Privacy tab
  4. Select Location Services

Your Mac includes Location Services settings, just like iOSYour Mac includes Location Services settings, just like iOS

Just like the Privacy settings on iOS, you'll have the option to disable Location Services system-wide, or for individual apps. In my case, the list of Mac apps that are using Location Services is substantially shorter than it is on my iPhone.

The status bar on your iPhone or menu bar on your Mac shows when Location Services is in useThe status bar on your iPhone or menu bar on your Mac shows when Location Services is in use

You can tell when apps are using Location Services on your iOS device or Mac by checking for the small arrow badge in the status bar on iOS, or the menu bar on OS X. The same arrow appears in the Location Services list next to apps that have used the feature. A purple arrow means the app is currently using Location Services, and a gray arrow means the feature was recently used.

While the apps you use are most likely using location data in a responsible way, that doesn't mean you don't need to be aware of which ones are, and knowing you can control which apps get to use the feature is great for troubleshooting, too. I often check Location Services when I notice the arrow badge in my iPhone's status bar -- and that's how I figured out Google Now was killing my battery.

Comments

Teresa

And if you want to get really geeky you can go into Settings—> General—> Restrictions, turn on restrictions, and set a passcode.  Then scroll down to Location Services.  See what is enabled and make sure it’s acceptable.  Then check the “don’t allow changes” option. 

I have this checked.  When google updated to google now, it couldn’t make changes to do location tracking without my knowledge.  Problem solved.  Nor can anyone else get on the phone and change the location settings unless they know the code for the restrictions portion. 

If I change my mind and want to allow or disallow location services on an app, I do have to go through some extra steps. But it’s worth it. 

Hope I didn’t make anyone’s head explode.

furbies

Teresa

That sounds like a useful tip. Thanks. And my head didn’t explode…

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