Tracking your location via your mobile device is something many apps and websites attempt to do. Developers, advertisers, and website vendors track your location not only to facilitate certain features, but also to serve you targeted ads and other location-based content.
Of course, location tracking is a dicey area as many people aren’t comfortable with the loss of privacy. With the new version of iOS, Apple offers some handy tools for managing location tracking on your iPhone. Using the Location Services feature, you can set different options for each individual app that wants access to your location.
SEE: Mobile device security: Tips for IT pros (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
First, make sure you’ve running iOS 13 or higher on your iPhone. Go to Settings and select General. In the General section, select Software Updates. If your software is not up-to-date, the latest update will offer itself for download and installation (Figure A).
To review and manage location tracking, go to Settings and select Privacy. Then tap the option for Location Services. You can certainly turn off all Location Services by flipping the switch at the top of the screen, but disabling all location services will limit the functionality of certain apps and services.
Instead, you should check and control the location tracking for each individual app. Tap the entry for a specific app, perhaps one in which the ability to allow location access is set to Always. Depending on the app, you’ll see three or four different choices (Figure B).
- Always: Location tracking is always enabled for that app whether or not you’re using it, so it can track your location in the background.
- While Using The App: Location tracking is enabled only when you’re actively using the app.
- Never: No location tracking, even if you’re using the app.
- Ask Next Time: With this option, you’ll be informed if an app wants to continue to track your location after a certain period of time.
The way you set an app’s location access depends on how, where, and when you use it. On an app that shouldn’t need your location to fully function, you’ll likely want to set it to Never. On an app that definitely needs to know your location, such as a navigation app, set it to While Using The App, or in some cases to Always.
On an app that may or may not need your location, you might want to set it to Ask Next Time so you can be alerted when it’s tracking you. If you choose this option, you’ll receive a notification at some point that the app has used your location over a certain number of days. You’re then asked if you want to continue to allow location background use. You can choose to continue to always allow the app to access your location or change the option to Only While Using.
Return to the Location Services screen. Tap the setting to Share My Location. Here, you’ll want to enable Find My iPhone so that you can track your phone if it ever gets lost or stolen. The option to Share My Location gives you the ability to share your whereabouts only with specific people through the Messages and Find My iPhone apps. You can leave this option turned off unless and until you have a specific need to share your locale with a friend or family member (Figure C).
With iOS 13, you also can control apps that want to track your location through Bluetooth devices, such as Bluetooth beacons in stores and other public settings. To manage this, go to Settings, select Privacy, and then tap on Bluetooth. The screen shows you a list of apps that have requested the ability to use Bluetooth, so you can enable or disable each one.
Here, you’ll want to think about which apps actually require Bluetooth access. A media app might need such access (although disabling Bluetooth in this case will still let you stream media via the app), but a retail store or social media app should not (Figure D).