The apps you download have been sharing your location data, not once but even a thousand times a day – some without your consent. These data packets are mostly sent from free apps either on the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store. Companies treasure this information since it helps advertisers better target consumers and is a business model for the apps when they sell this data.
In an effort to lessen the privacy issues raised by the users of these apps, the companies say that the raw data is anonymous but interestingly enough, this data is personal as it can be connected to people’s identities by connecting the data to information that is publicly available without their consent. With detailed location history, the so-called anonymity these apps offer don’t mean much at all. Technology has become more intrusive in terms of snooping on the intimate details you don’t want strangers having access to.
It’s worrying that most of these apps often have misleading explanations when users are prompted to grant them permissions to access their device’s location. In the prompt, these apps fail to mention that these data will be shared or sold when users agree to give their information so that these companies can give them rewards and services customized to them.
How do I know which apps are sharing my location?
Apps that share your location data mention to their users that that data will be used for market analysis or just business purposes.
Some apps don’t sell the data at first, they collect it and then sell it later – you’ll have to manually check your phone to see which apps have been granted permissions to access your location. Your focus should be targeted but not limited to weather, travel, shopping and dating apps.
Here’s how to stop the apps from tracking your location
Go to Settings> Security & Location> Privacy> Location> Location permissions
Android phones have more lax permission limits – they don’t limit access by the app to your location to only the times you want to use it. These apps can gather your location data even when you’re not using it. For the latest Android versions, Google says that it restricts the location to a few times an hour.
Just to be safe, disable location services by switching off the “Use Location” option. If you use maps quite often, just add the location service to your quick setting in the notification panel by editing the icons so that you can switch it on and off when the need arises.
It’s also imperative to delete apps you no longer use.
Yes, you can delete your location data that has been collected by some companies.
It is difficult to erase your data since most companies assign your data to an ID number making it hard to identify it if you want to delete it. You can erase your Location History from Google either here in your Location History segment or in the My Activity segment (Activity Controls> Web & App Activity –turn it off)
Go to Settings> Privacy> Location Services> select Never to block, While Using to give some permission or Always to allow the app to gather location data even when not in use. You can also disable the Location Services at once if you want to.
It’s scary that the Google Play store and the Apple App store have given ground to the free app economy where free apps make money by selling or sharing your location data to advertisers. Allowing the “app is free but we sell or share your data” as a business model for apps that don’t even require permissions is catastrophic.
It’s now high time to be restrictive of the apps we download to our phones. We all can’t have dumb phones – it’s impractical, but what we can do is to ask ourselves when we are weighing out what apps to erase from or download to our phones is “Do I really need this app?”
To be safer, you’ll have to go with paid apps or free apps whose business model isn’t monetizing your data (from location to call log data). An extreme move is deleting all of your apps and beginning afresh with apps that take your privacy seriously with viable business models that don’t rely on ads.