Imagine if a data broker knows your phone is on a nightstand next to another phone six nights a week and across town on the seventh night. That data broker also knows everywhere you go and how long you stay there. Creepy.
Want to be shocked? If you have an iPhone, hidden deep in its settings is something Apple calls “Significant Locations.”
You might be wondering, “How is this tracking happening?” You let it. Install an app, and in the legalese, it says the app developer has the right to share or transfer data collected from users with third-party entities, including advertisers, marketers, or data brokers.
You might also have a snoopy partner, stalker, or family member tracking your location. I’ll help you make it stop.
Your location is worth a lot
Apps can use location tracking in various ways.
Location-based services: Many apps use location tracking for GPS navigation, weather updates, local news, or finding nearby restaurants or stores. Advertising: Ever drive by a Starbucks or Duncan Donuts and get a $5 coupon on your phone? An app may use your location to show offers for nearby businesses or services. Analytics: App developers collect data to understand how users move through a physical space or to identify trends and patterns.
Some apps offer options to limit location tracking or to turn it off entirely. It’s simple to fiddle with these settings, but you must be thorough. You may have already turned off location tracking on your phone but didn’t do the same with your laptop. It defeats the purpose.
Kim Komando tells you how to prevent phone apps from tracking you. Getty Images
I’ll walk you through how to change your device and account settings across many major players.
Start with Google
Your Google account is tied to various apps and services, so let’s start there.
As the name implies, Location History saves your location wherever you take your phone. It’s off by default, but you may have turned it on and forgotten about it. No problem. Here’s how to turn it off:
Sign into your account at myaccount.google.com or through the Google app.Go to Data & privacy > Location History.Tap or click Turn off and confirm your selection.While you’re here, make sure Auto-delete is On.
One last super important thing: Open up Devices on this account to see a list of devices saving your location. Select Turn off to disable any devices you don’t want to track you.
Location Sharing lets you share your location from your devices with people you choose. You may be using this setting with your loved ones, but it’s worth checking.
Sign in to your account at myaccount.google.com or through the Google app.Go to Data & privacy > Location Sharing.If you’re not sharing your location with anyone, there’s nothing to do here.People you’re sharing your location with will be listed here.Tap or click Stop next to the name of anyone you want to stop sharing your location with.
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Location tracking on your iPhone
Location Services has two parts: A global setting to stop sharing your location with Apple and individual settings for each app you have installed on your iPhone.
Let’s go over the controls for this service:
Go to Settings > Privacy & Security > Location Services.From here, you have the option to switch off Location Services completely.Alternatively, you turn off Location Services for individual apps by scrolling down the list and tapping the ones you want to change.
Location Sharing lets you share your location with family and friends in Messages, Find My, and other services.
Go to Settings > Privacy & Security > Location Services > Share My Location.If you share your location with anyone, you’ll see their names here.Switch off Share My Location anytime.
Cookies aren’t just used on your computer to keep track of your passwords, shopping carts, and everything else. They’re on your phone, too. You can wipe them out.
Location tracking on your Android phone
Choose between turning off location tracking completely or fine-tuning each app’s setting.
Go to Settings > Location and toggle off Use Location.If you leave the setting on, scroll down and change the settings for each app by tapping on them.
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Location sharing on Google Maps
You may have shared your location with friends and family through Google Maps. Here’s how to check if you’re doing that without realizing it.
Open the Google Maps app and tap your profile.Tap Location Sharing. Not sharing your location with anyone? There’s nothing more to do.People you’re sharing your location with will be listed here.Tap a profile, then tap Stop for anyone you want to stop sharing your location with.
Location settings on Windows
You can turn location services off entirely on your Windows PC or for individual apps. This step is smart to do, especially if you have a laptop you take with you on the go.
Go to Start > Settings > Privacy > Location.Click Change, then toggle off Location for this device.Toggling off Location for this device also prevents apps from knowing your location.When Allow apps to access your location is switched on, scroll down and toggle off the setting for each app.
Location services on macOS
Here’s how to change location services for your Mac:
Click the Apple menu > System Settings > Privacy & Security > Location Services.Switch off Location Services.If you want some apps to know your location, switch Location Services on or off for each app in the list.