This week the New York Times revealed that some app developers are taking part in a shady practice: making an app whose use requires access to your location and then selling your exact location data history to third-party advertisers.
And it’s not just small, shady app developers that are doing this. Major apps like The Weather Channel, WeatherBug, theScore, and others are into the practice. As the New York Times reports:
“The Times tested 20 apps, most of which had been flagged by researchers and industry insiders as potentially sharing the data. Together, 17 of the apps sent exact latitude and longitude to about 70 businesses. Precise location data from one app, WeatherBug on iOS, was received by 40 companies.”
So what should you do? The best thing is to completely delete any app the Times has identified and switch to one that doesn’t traffic in selling your location data. If you are not ready to give up one of the shady apps, then at the very least you should restrict its access to your real-time location on your devices–see below on how to do that.
Just a note first: most of these shady apps are available on both iOS and Android. But in this article we will only look at restricting them on the iPhone, because iOS has better location privacy features built in. We’ll do Android in another piece.
How To Stop Apps From Tracking Your iPhone’s Location
The latest versions of iOS has a multi-level location permission structure. It allows you to grant an app access to your location data with any of the three following permissions:
- Never: this means the app will never be allowed to access your location data.
- While Using the App: this means the app will only be able to access your location when the app is actually open. It will not be able to continue to access your location when the app is only running in the background.
- Always: this means the app has access to your location data every second of the day whether its open or running in the background. This setting essentially lets an app track every step you take all day long.
The good news is iOS allows you to assign these permissions on a per-app basis, so you can give each app it’s own level of access. Here’s how to do just that:
- Open the Settings app.
- Tap Privacy.
- On the next screen tap Location Services.
- On the next screen, you’ll see a list of apps that have asked for access to your location.
- Tap on an app to check its current location permissions.
- On the next screen, you can then tap to change the permission to Never, While Using the App, or Always. That’s it. You’re done.
Note: some apps might not have the “Always” option. That’s a good thing. So then you only will need to choose between “Never” or “While Using the App”.