The California Attorney General issued a consumer alert on location services used by mobile applications (apps).
With a tap on a smartphone or tablet, a list of nearby restaurants, directions to a friend's home or a local weather forecast appear within seconds. Location services on devices make a variety of convenient apps work. Location services take the user's geographic information from satellites, WiFi and cell-tower networks. What many don't realize is that some apps can access a device's location all the time, even when they're not in use.
Broadcasting a device's location can sometimes expose individuals to risk of theft or physical harm. For instance, unknowingly revealing the location of a phone is "geo-tagging" photos. When a photo is taken, the location where it was taken may be inserted into the image file, along with the date/time stamp. If the photo is posted online, it reveals the user's location at a point in time. Sharing a "selfie" without disabling geo-tagging can be dangerous, especially for victims of stalking or domestic abuse.
How mobile location services work may be technical, but users do not have to be an engineer to have more control. By adjusting the settings on a mobile device, a user can control location services to protect his or her privacy on today's "always on" frontier.
Android Phones and Devices
• Go to Settings, then Location and uncheck the boxes. When an app asks for access to your location, you can chose to grant it or not.
• To disable geo-tagging of photos, open the camera and then click on the gear icon and set location to "No." You may have to click the gear icon on several screen layers.
• You can also choose how accurate you want your location reporting to be, whether it is determined based on GPS plus WiFi and cellular networks or just one or the other. The higher degree of accuracy uses more of your battery, so protecting your privacy will protect your battery life too.
iPhones and iPads (iOS 6 and later)
• Go to Settings, then Privacy, then Location Services. You can turn it off. Or you can choose which functions and apps to give access to your location.
• To disable geo-tagging of photos, deny location access to the camera, in Location Services.
• You may get notifications from apps asking to use your location in the background. For privacy, select "Don't Allow."
For more mobile privacy tips, including how to control location information on other mobile platforms, see the California Department of Justice's information sheets Getting Smart About Smartphones: Tips for Consumers and Getting Smart About Smartphones: Tips for Parents. For tips on safe social networking, see Staying Private in Public: How to Limit Your Exposure on Social Network Sites. All are available online at www.oag.ca.gov/privacy/info-sheets.