January 29, 2016

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Cell Phone Privacy: The Truth About “Location Services”

If you’re like most people, you probably have mixed feeling about enabling “location services” on your cell phone, other portable electronic devices, or in-vehicle GPS. On one hand, it’s convenient that location-based apps always know where you are and can tailor offers or map results based on that knowledge. On the other hand, it just feels a little creepy when you realize that your phone (and the company that made it, along with app creators) have the ability to always know where you are.

Does the convenience factor outweigh the creepy factor? Or are we giving up our rights to privacy just so it’s easier to tag locations to your Instagram photos?

If You Value Cell Phone Privacy and Security, Don’t Enable “Location Services”

Most average people don’t fully understand how location services uses their personal information. And yet, countless people enable this feature on their electronic devices and completely sacrifice their cell phone privacy. They likely figure that they are “probably” safe, or just assume nothing will actually happen to them or their information.

It is this type of mindset, however, that is leaving millions of people (and their personal info) vulnerable to those with less-than-honorable intentions.

Companies aren’t always completely transparent about how they use consumer data. They also aren’t always upfront about which third parties they might share that information with. You may feel relatively secure sharing your location information with Apple, but what if Apple is selling those details to a third party? A third party you know nothing about? Right now, for the most part, there’s just no easy way to know who actually receives and analyzes our location data.

There is also a major identity theft threat when it comes to enabling “location services.” Many times, companies that have your location information also have other personal data that they’ve used to construct your personal data profile. They may know your name, where you live, where you work, your birthday, your friends’ names — information that you would normally never share with strangers. Hackers can attack these companies and easily steal your personal data, often without you even realizing what has happened.

Perpetrators can not only fraudulently take your identity, but also target you out in the “real world.” Because they know where you live, work, shop, and eat, they can identify patterns in your daily routine and make plans to rob your house, steal your car, or even physically harm you. This is, of course, an extreme example — but it is critical that we consider these scenarios and realize they are fully possible.

When it comes to “location services,” the negatives really do seem to outweigh the positives. Not only is the whole concept slightly “Big Brother,” but we can also never be completely sure that our personal information is safe from criminals. Unless you are entirely certain how your data is being handled and shared by enabling “location services,” you may be better off just disabling the function.

One Response to Cell Phone Privacy: The Truth About “Location Services”

  1. Nearby says:

    I totally agree with you. For privacy concerns, opt to disable location services.

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