JUN 13, 2024

Location sharing: here’s what you need to know

Due to a rise in cybercrime over the last few years, cyber security has never been a hotter topic. But while you might be thinking about anti-virus software on your computers or other network security measures, there’s another culprit that is often overlooked — and it lives in your pocket. 

Location sharing on smartphones isn’t always front of mind, mainly because a lot of the time you’ve given permission for a bunch of things when you first set up the phone or maybe even swiped away a permissions notification without properly reading it. But it’s just as important as ensuring you have 2FA correctly set up on your computer!

Here we’ll address some of the common questions and concerns people have about location sharing, so you can keep your data and most importantly, yourself, safe. 

How does location sharing actually work?

How does location sharing actually work?

There are many ways your smartphone tracks your location — and it’s commonly agreed that it’s almost impossible to stop location tracking entirely. From mobile phone towers, metadata transmitted from telecommunications and even the data stored on your phone, there are many methods. But don’t let this make you paranoid. Understanding how to keep the things you don’t want shared private, but also having the ability to share your location when you want to is the balance you want to strike.

How do I know if I’m sharing my location on my iPhone?

On your iPhone you can check whether location sharing is turned on and off, both generally and app-specifically. 

To do this, head to Settings > Privacy & Security > Location Services. Most people will want general Location Settings turned on for their iPhone, as some apps actually only work if you allow location sharing to be accessed while you are using the app (at a minimum).

If you scroll down past ‘Share your location’ (which is what you would use if you were purposefully trying to share your location with a friend or family member), you will see all your apps listed. Here is where you will have the option, for each individual app, to decide whether to allow location services. You can toggle between allowing your location to be accessed by that app either ‘Never, ‘Ask next time or when I share’, or ‘While using the app’. 

As mentioned, there will be some apps that will require location access like Maps or the Google Play store to function correctly, so be mindful that if you select ‘never’ for these apps you’re likely to be prompted to turn it back on next time you use the app. However, if there are apps that don’t require your location to function correctly you may wish to turn them off to minimise the amount of location data being stored. Things like social media apps or even your camera all generally ask you to share your location, so if your phone falls into the wrong hands or you’re sharing updates through these apps, be mindful that this will provide someone with timestamped instances of when you’ve been in specific locations. 

Does sharing my location still work if my iPhone is turned off?

Possibly — it depends what you have set up on your phone. The main way to track your phone’s live location is through mobile towers, so when your phone is off it won’t ping off the towers. 

However, if you have a ‘Find My’ app activated on your iPhone when it’s turned off, your phone will be able to be located based on its last location. To go one further, Apple has crowdsourced data between all its devices (with location settings on!) so if there are other Apple devices around a phone that is switched off, the Find My Network will still work to locate your phone. This is obviously great if you’re the one trying to locate your lost phone, but less great if it’s someone you don’t want finding you.

But I don’t have an iPhone…

But I don’t have an iPhone…

Find My Device is the Android equivalent of Apple’s ‘Find My’ app and works in basically the same way. However if you’re looking for a universal location sharing technology then WhatsApp’s live location sharing is another solution. On the flip side, if you are worried about sharing your location accidentally, WhatsApp is another app on your phone you may want to check the settings of. WhatsApp gives you the option of stopping location sharing within an individual chat or across the entire app from within, or you can toggle with the app’s settings via your phone’s settings as described in the beginning.

Location sharing can be a super helpful tool when you’re using it deliberately and with knowledge about who can access your data. Ultimately it’s all about having awareness of what you are sharing, when, and through what channels. Hopefully this article has prompted you to grab your phone and check all your location settings now, both on the phone itself and all your apps! 

Need help configuring your new phone or maybe you feel like your phone currently is performing as well as it could be? Geeks2U offers mobile device setup — get in touch with us to learn more today.

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Amy Joseph
I'm Amy, a commercial and creative writer with more than 10 years' experience, working in industries including travel, tech, health, fitness, finance and more.