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Security & privacy

Your phone collects your location data, even when you tell it not to

Location data is useful to corporations for a variety of reasons. Mapping platforms like Google Maps use your location to help you navigate, while retail sites use them to know how close you are to one of their stores. Tap or click here to learn more about how corporations are tracking your location.

But not everyone is comfortable having their location tracked at all times. That’s why most modern smartphones allow you to disable location services at your leisure. It may be buried deep in the settings, but you can turn geolocation off.

At least, that’s what we thought. One phone manufacturer has been caught tracking users’ locations even after the setting was turned off. If you own a smartphone made by this company, you might want to rethink using location services at all.

iPhones don’t care if you want to lay low

According to a new report from Brian Krebs at Krebs on Security, Apple’s latest iPhones (the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max) will continue to track your location, even if you’ve disabled location services for specific apps and features.

This flies directly in the face of the company’s alleged “pro-privacy” stance and opens doors to skepticism about how Apple is handling the data it collects. Click or tap to see how third-party iPhone apps and Apple harvest your data.

Krebs made his findings after noticing the location services indicator would remain visible even after he turned off specific uses of the feature in settings, as well as every app on his phone.

Krebs reported his findings to Apple as a privacy bug, but the company responded by clarifying the phone was working like normal. In the words of the representative he spoke with:

It is expected behavior that the Location Services icon appears in the status bar when Location Services is enabled. The icon appears for system services that do not have a switch in Settings

Apple engineer to Brian Krebs of Krebsonsecurity.com

This comment is illuminating for several reasons, but the biggest is the revelation that some location services can’t be turned off at all.

Why does Apple want to track me? How can I stop them from doing so?

Apple has not yet responded to Krebs’ follow-up questions, but internet users are speculating the always-on location services have something to do with crowd-sourcing Wi-Fi hotspots. Indeed, this feature is confirmed in Apple’s terms of service, and provides information to Apple that the company shares with customers.

Regardless, we still don’t know enough about what Apple does with the information it harvests. Though it claims to be on the side of privacy, the company itself is notoriously private behind the scenes.

To keep Apple from tracking you, your best bet is to simply turn off location services altogether. Keep in mind this will remove the ability to use navigation, geotagging and similar services.

To disable location services completely, open the Settings app on your iPhone and scroll down to Privacy. Open this and tap Location Services on the next menu. You’ll see Location Services on the page that appears with a green toggle switch next to it. Tap this to turn it off.

Though Android and Google aren’t doing the same thing, it’s still worth knowing how to stop Google from tracking your location. Tap or click her to learn how to turn off Google location services.

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