Location tracking is a double-edged sword for many users of popular smart phones running apps through advanced operating systems including iOS, Android, and Windows Phone 7. This allows your system and third-party apps to use your current location in order to expand upon the software’s available features. For example, a photo can be tagged with a geolocation. Still, some users expect a higher level of control over which third-party apps do and do not have access to your location for both privacy and battery efficiency.
So, how do you control precisely what systems and apps have access to this data, and which ones do not? Surprisingly, iOS 5 has expanded upon existing location controls quite a bit, allowing us to shut off location-based services for everything from individual third-party apps to seemingly vital internal operating mechanisms including cell network search and traffic updates.
To access these controls, you’ll need to open up the Settings app on your iPhone, then hit Location Services located near the top of the menu, right below Notifications.
The primary Location Services switch shuts off all location-based services on your phone, including system services that control your compass and GPS capabilities. To refine your controls, leave this switch in the on position and scroll down.
Here, you will see all of your third-party and non-system apps including Compass, Maps, Reminders, Weather, and Find My iPhone. You can switch any of these off you’d wish, but be forewarned that you may be shutting off functionality on the individual app you could be benefiting from unknowingly.
This menu also gives you an indication as to which apps have recently used your location during operation. Both within the past 24 hours, and current usage.
You can also fine-tune your Find My iPhone settings from here. By selecting the Find My iPhone option, you can both toggle the location services for that particular feature, and activae a Status Bar Icon that lets you know someone is actively tracking your iPhone from another device.
Moving further down the menu, you’ll reach the System Services submenu. Here, you can toggle the various system features that take advantage of your geolocation. For example, if you don’t want your phone using your location to automatically adjust your time zone, you can toggle it off. You can also turn on the Status Bar Icon so you can see a real-time indication of when these background system services are tracking you. By default, only the non-system and third-party apps give you any indication.
With this knowledge in mind, you can better control who does and doesn’t know exactly where you’re located at any given time. You can also avoid any accidental location giveaways, such as a photo taken at your home with location data on board.