How to See iPhone Apps That Track Location and How to Deactivate the Permission

Woman with a silver watch and white tshirt is holding her iPhone in both hands, looking at the screen.

There’s a lot of buzz around privacy in the digital age. When it comes to your data, whether it’s emails, photos, health information or something else, nothing can be entirely private.

Expectantly, people are pretty upset that their important data isn’t secure. To combat this, users have taken it upon themselves to learn how to safeguard data in the digital age.

Believe it or not, a lot of your iPhone’s applications track where you are. Some applications monitor where their users are and then sells the location data to advertising companies. Then, marketing entities can better serve you content based off where you go and what you like to do.

Although this is an invasion of privacy that can be harmful, worse things can happen when apps have access to your location. If a criminal hacks an app, he or she can get ahold of your important data and steal your bank account information, know when you’ll be away from home and more.

As a general rule of thumb, you don’t want your apps to know more than they have to know. Many users decide to let their apps only see their location while they’re using its features, protecting themselves and their sensitive information.

If you have Android OS on your smartphone then review our write-up on this same topic here.

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Privacy Settings

If you have an iPhone that has iOS 8 or later, your privacy controls let you manage your apps and device. iOS is the operating system your phone uses to function. Every time you use your phone to schedule tasks, use applications and more, you have iOS to thank.

To figure out what version of iOS you have, launch your “Settings” app. Within the app, click “General” and “About.” Under the “Version” section, you will see what type of iOS you’re using.

As of October 10, 2018, 50 percent of iPhones were running iOS 12, 39 percent were running iOS 11 and 11 percent were running an earlier version. So, changes are pretty good you’re running iOS 8 or later.

To look at your privacy settings, click “Settings” and “Privacy” on your iPhone. You’ll then see a list of apps to select from. All of the apps listed have some sort of permission to use your data. If you don’t see an app listed, it does not have access to your data.

As you click through each app, you can see what permissions they have. You can also change your settings to alter what information apps can access and when.

Keep in mind that whenever you allow a their-party application to use your data or current location, you are under contract with them. Third-party apps have their own terms, policies and practices. To better understand what you’re agreeing to before using an app, make sure to read the application’s specific terms, privacy policies and practices documents.

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Location Services

When you use common apps, like Maps, Weather and Camera, they likely access your location. When you turn on Location Services, you agree to have your location collected, processed and transmitted.

For example, Yelp may use your location to suggest nearby coffee shops and restaurants. Location Services always notifies you when it’s in use by displaying a black or white arrow icon near the top of your phone.

For an app to know your current location, you have to enable Location Services and give the app permission to access your location information. Generally, when approved, an app will have one of two types of access to your information: full access (the app always knows your location) or limited access (an app only knows your location when it’s in use).

There is one exception, though, which is in the case of an emergency. If you make an emergency call, Location Services may access your location without your permission to aid response efforts.

To turn Location Services on or off, go to “Settings,” “Privacy” and “Location Services.” Location Services is turned on if the slider is powered “on” and a green color is showing. To turn Location Services off, slide the toggle to the left.

If you only want Location Services to change by app instead of powering all the way on and off, scroll down. You will see a list of apps displayed and information about when they are accessing your data. Clicking through the apps, you can decide when and how they can use your information.

If you are having difficulty figuring out how to modify your privacy settings, consider reaching out to HelpCloud Technician by-the-hour to assure you resolve the issues you’re experiencing.

Keep in mind that the first time you use an app, if it needs your location, it should ask your permission to use your location. When you launch “Maps” for the first time, it should say something like, “Allow ‘Maps’ to access your location while you are using the app?

Your current location will be displayed on the map and used for directions, nearby search results, and estimated travel times.” As mentioned above, if you agree to this “Maps” request, you are granting limited access.

Other apps will ask for full access by saying something like, “‘Weather’ has been using your location in the background. Do you want to keep allowing this? If you always allow access to your location, local weather will be kept up to date at all times. If you only allow access while using the app, it will only be updated after you open the Weather app.”

Frequent or Significant Locations

Something that’s worried a lot of iPhone users this year is a feature called frequent or significant locations. When people used “Maps,” they would often get suggestions for locations, such as work, before they were even in the car or running the app.

Although the permission read “While Using,” the app seemed to keep track of users and know where they were going while the app wasn’t in use. So, why does your iPhone seem to know where you are and where you’ve been?

Something called significant locations are collected on your phone and stored there. Luckily, according to Apple, “Significant Locations are encrypted and cannot be read by Apple.” Still, you might want to turn this feature off or empty the location list every so often to limit your risk.

To see your locations, tap “Settings,” “Privacy,” “Location Services,” “System Services” and “Significant Locations.” At this point, you might need to enter your passcode or use Touch or Face ID. Once you’re authenticated, you will see a list of cities and towns you’ve visited. Within the list of cities, you can see sub-locations and the dates of your visits.

A screenshot of Apple Maps displaying Significant Locations, shown by blue circles.

In the event you decide you want to remove significant locations from your phone, you have two options. The first is to tap the “Edit” button and removal all entries. The other option is to go through your location list and delete only specific locations.  

Apps That Need Location Information

Some apps don’t function without knowing your location. “Maps” needs to know your location in order to give you directions while the app is launched. Another app that needs your location is an activity application that does something like track the distance you walk daily.

That being said, there are some workarounds when it comes to needing these apps. Specifically, when it comes to a running or training app, you might be able to get by with Apple’s “Health” app.

A screenshot of Apple Health and its Dashboard which includes workout and health stats.

Health” gives you access to your fitness and health data. To access your dashboard, click the “Health” icon, which is a pinkish heart icon on a white background. Under “Health Data” you can enter data and see information about your sleep, body measurements, fitness and more.

Privacy Is a Human Right

So much of your personal information, which needs to be kept private and save, is saved on your iPhone. Who you talk with, the amount of daily steps you take, where you like to get coffee and tons of other personal information can be stored on your iPhone.

To help keep your information private, Apple offers a variety of features. One of the most known is iPhone’s authentication. Depending on their device and operating system, users can enroll in things like Touch ID, Face ID, six-digit and four-digit passcodes.

Furthermore, Apple has strict guidelines that app developers must meet. When you purchase or download an app from Apple, you can rest assured that the application adheres to strict privacy guidelines.

Surviving the Digital Age

You’re currently living in the digital age. With the touch of a few buttons, you have access to virtually every aspect of human knowledge thanks to the world wide web.

Information is valuable, especially when it’s your own. Although you might not know it, your information is likely already on the internet, and it has a lot of value to criminals and advertisers.

To keep yourself safe, stay current on threats and familiarize yourself with an app’s privacy agreement and rights before you download it to your iPhone. Again, if you’re ever having trouble with iPhone safety, reach out to HelpCloud Technician by-the-hour to get answers to your questions.

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Erik Fullmer

Director of Marketing

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Erik was raised in many places in a military family but has long since called Utah home. He spends free time in his garden, in the mountains with his dog, and skis…a lot. He is actively earning the necessary certifications and training to become a certified winter mountain guide.

Erik graduated from Utah Valley University in 2011 with a bachelor's degree in Behavioral Science and a minor in Spanish. Additionally, being raised by a German mother, he spent a part of his childhood and also the beginning of his professional career in Germany where he worked as a Digital Strategist for adesta, a locally owned business in Darmstadt. Speaking three languages has opened up the world to him and influences the breadth of topics covered in his articles. He has always held an affinity for the world wide web and its workings, development, history and future.

Being a key player in the development of, and Director of Marketing for HelpCloud, he takes the content displayed and utilized on HelpCloud extremely seriously.