A surprising number of smartphone APPS ask on installation for permission to access your location. For APPS such as the Automobile Association or Google Maps or Local weather or Find a Restaurant this makes sense but many APPS want to track your location for their own benefit – not yours.
Carnegie Mellon University carried out a study on Android phones. The researchers followed 23 Android phone owners for three weeks. In the first week, they were asked to use their apps as they normally would. In the second week, the participants used an app called App Ops to monitor and manage the data those apps were using. In the third week, the research team introduced a “privacy nudge” alert that would ping the participants each time an app requested location data.
The title of the study is: Your Location Has Been Shared 5,398 Times! A Field Study on Mobile App Privacy Nudging.
You can see what level of problem there is.
Why do APPS access your location so often? Quite often, the answer is Marketing – the APP transmits your location regularly back to base where it’s sent to one or more advert networks so they can track where you visit and try to fashion appropriate adverts to be shown on your device.
Apparently, the free APPS are the worst for this behaviour. You can see they need to make money and one way is to sell that user data including location.
Take Control of Your Device
If you want to know exactly what an app is allowed to track on your Android phone, open the Settings app then go to Apps & notifications, choose an app, and select Permissions. Over on iOS, launch the Settings app then pick an app to see the permissions it has. Most of these permissions can be revoked with a toggle switch on both Android and iOS.
On both Android and IOS you can disable location altogether, but that may be overkill as it is useful in some APPS.
Be aware of which APPS track your location and if you cannot see why one needs your location then consider deleting the APP and replacing it.