Cybersecurity News & Events Quick Tips

What Is Precise Location Sharing – Check Your App Permissions!

From teaching us new things, showing us how to get where we need to go, connecting us with our loved ones, and more, our smartphone apps offer us with a plethora of different resources that can help to make our lives easier. Depending on the function of the app, you may need to allow various types of permissions; this includes things like your phone’s microphone, camera, and even location.

An app where you may need to be on camera in order to be on video for a period of time, such a Zoom, or share a selfie, such a Snapchat, would reasonably ask for permission to use your phone’s camera. Likewise, some apps ask for the permission to have access to your location so that they can provide some sort of function based on this information; an app that would reasonably ask for your location is a GPS app like Google Maps which needs to be aware of where you are in order to provide proper directions. Another app that makes sense to share your location with is something like Life360, one of many apps that allow you to share your location with family and friends so that can keep track of them and they of you. However, not every app needs access to your location, and there are two levels of location tracking your apps can use, including general and precise location.

Apps with access to your general location services will be able to tell what area of a town you are in while precise location services work to pinpoint your exact location, down to the exact side of the shop you’re in at the moment.

Precise Location In The News

This week, precise location became a major topic of conversation when a couple different posts were going around claiming that a new update to Instagram and other social media sites has made it so that anyone can have access to your exact location, including those with malintent. The posts go on to explain how to check and see if apps on your phone have access to your precise location and how to turn it off.

While the posts were beneficial for the mere fact that they brought to light that some apps do have access to our precise locations, they were not totally accurate. This is not a new phenomenon that was brought about by a recent update, rather precise location has been available since Apple and Android’s operating system updates in April of 2020. Additionally, your precise location is not accessible to anyone and everyone, even if you left it on; it is just available to the app itself.

Protect Your Data

Unfortunately, the default setting for many apps is that you automatically share your precise location with them – it is on for these apps whether you turned it on or not. Be sure to check the settings on all of your apps and ensure that all of the features each particular app has permission to access makes sense for the app’s use. An app like an Apple Maps or Google Maps makes sense to have access to your precise location because it will provide you with more accurate directions, which is the purpose of the application. However, social media apps like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and more never need access to your precise location. They likely do not need access to even your general location, however, sometimes users on social media like to share that they are in a certain town or at a certain restaurant when sharing their posts, so it is understandably why you may share your general location with these apps. When checking your location permissions, be sure to also check the permissions each app has regarding access to your microphone, camera, and contacts, as many apps will request access to such features. The rule of thumb is if the app does not need access to this feature in order for you to use the app for its purposes, don’t allow it.

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