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Have you noticed when you use an iPhone app for the first time, there's often a pop-up that asks for your permission to access your location data? This is a feature called "location services" or "location sharing." Location services gives you access to many useful features, but it also puts your privacy at risk. So, should location services be turned on or off? We'll give you both sides and let you decide for yourself.

Location Sharing Uses

Weather Apps:

I'm willing to bet that almost everyone has a weather app on their phone. It makes sense for obvious reasons why a weather app would need your location. Technically you could enter your zip code each time you wanted to check the weather, but who has time for that? I know I don’t.

Recently, a popular weather app (The Weather Channel) was sued for harvesting location data and selling it without explicit consent. 

Parked Location: 

If you’re forgetful like me, then the “showed parked location” feature is a life saver. You can set up this feature by going to Settings > Maps and toggling the button next to “show parked location.” No more wandering around the parking lot furiously clicking the panic button on your keys!

Keep in mind, Apple may be tracking every location you visit and doing whatever they want with that data.

Games: 

Even games are asking for your location! A few games, like Pokemon Go, rely on your location for the game to work. If a game like candy crush wants your location, don’t allow it. There’s no reason why you need to share your location to swap colored candies, solve a word puzzle, or fight zombies.

Navigation Apps:

Navigation apps such as Google Maps and Waze require location services for obvious reasons. It'd be impossible to use a navigation app without sharing your location. How can Waze tell you to turn in 500 feet,  if it doesn't know exactly where you are?

Social Media:

Most social media apps ask for your location so you can check in, tag yourself, or use a geofilter. They may also use it to show events near you or friends nearby. It's tempting to tag your location or use a geofilter to show off that you're going to fun places and on awesome vacations. However, be aware that constantly posting your location can allow people to stalk you (hello, crazy ex), see if you're alone, or know if you're on vacation and rob your house.

Find My Friends App: 

It’s great for sharing your location with family members or your spouse. It can add a sense of security, especially for parents. You can check to see if your kid made it to their friend’s house or soccer practice without having to constantly call or text them. The app actually saved me one time as a teenager when I accidentally drove into a ditch (embarrassing, I know). I called my Dad who immediately asked where I was. I didn’t know; I was lost and scared in an unfamiliar area. Luckily, he was able to use Find My Friends to see exactly what road I was on and he was able to come help me.

You have to send a request and the other person has to accept it and vise versa in order to view each other’s locations. There is the option for it to be one-way. For example, you can choose to see your child's location but not allow them to see yours.

How to Control Location Services

Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services

You can choose to turn location services completely off by toggling the button to the right of “Location Services”

If you choose to keep location services on, scroll down and look through the location settings for each app. You have up to 3 options for each app:

Never: Completely prevents access to location services information. (However,  just because location sharing is turned off, doesn’t mean you’re completely in the clear. If you’re connected to the Internet, apps can use your IP address to find your zip code.)

While Using App: Allows access to location services only when the app or one of its features is visible on the screen.

Always: Allows access to your location even when the app is on in the background.

Below the options you’ll find a very brief explanation of why the app wants to access your location. Keep in mind, this is usually one sentence and not comprehensive. To find out details about how an app uses your location, you should read their terms and privacy policies.

I personally recommend going through each app individually and using your discretion to pick a location setting rather than turning location services 100% on or off for all apps.