We live in a world dominated by a need to be connected. The need to connect with others, with technology, with current events: these desires keep us plugged in and available at almost any time. But there’s a difference between having your phone on to get calls from friends and allowing it to track your location, and movement. Admittedly, not all apps try to access your location information, but many popular social media apps are guilty of potentially overusing their location services. Here’s how to disable location services on your mobile device for Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and other phone apps.
One of the features Instagram includes for users is the ability to share their photo’s location when posting. This can be a convenient way of sharing a great photo spot with followers, but it’s also risky; followers can easily see on a map where the picture was taken and potentially where you are.
But regardless of whether or not you choose to share your photo’s location, if you allow your location services to remain on, Instagram automatically shares your photo to its photo map through a geotag. This also reveals your significant locations to potential predators.
- Go to your phone’s settings.
- Click Privacy.
- Scroll to Location Services and locate Instagram from the list of apps.
- Select “Never” from the list of options. Note that you can choose ‘Only While Using the App’ or for the app to request access next time, but choosing ‘Never’ is the only way to completely turn off location services and is the recommended option.
Facebook is the parent company of Instagram, so it’s no surprise that Facebook also uses your location. The social media app uses your device location to show you geographically relevant ads, a form of ad tracking. They also allow you to share your location with friends on Facebook through posts and with check-ins.
Although convenient, none of this is necessary for a user to be able to enjoy Facebook. If you want to disable your location services for Facebook, follow these steps:
- Go to the app’s settings.
- Find Account Settings.
- Click “Location” and select “off.”
- Optional: You can also choose to disable location history at this point.
Unlike Facebook and Instagram, Snapchat not only tracks your location but actively displays it on its Snap Map if you have location enabled. This means others can see where you are and where you’re headed in real time. Every time you open the app or send a snapchat, the map updates your location.
Consequently, you can also see how long ago a person was active on Snapchat through data revealed on the Snap Map. With location services enabled, you can also tag your snaps with a place before sharing them with others.
To turn off your location services on Snapchat:
- Go to your phone’s settings.
- Click Privacy.
- Scroll to Location Services and locate Snapchat from the list of apps.
- Select “Never” from the list of options.
- If you do choose to select “When Using the App,” make sure to toggle off “Precise Location” below it; this at least makes it so that the app can only get your general location.
Your Phone’s Location Services
If you feel like adjusting the location settings for individual apps is not enough, you may want to consider just turning off your phone’s location services altogether. Although this is a drastic step—it will significantly change the usability of GPS services, for example—it will certainly keep you safer.
You can also consider turning all location services off and simply turning them back on for a short period when they are absolutely necessary. Turning off your phone’s location services can also be done in your system services; check “Settings” under “Privacy.”
Why Should I Even Disable Location Services?
Location services might not seem like a big deal. How much harm can enabling location services really bring? There's no guarantee that you'll compromise your privacy if you use location services. Plus, there are benefits to using it. However, constantly allowing your phone and apps to track your location means that the spread of that information is simply out of your control.
Companies are able to sell your data to advertisers or data brokers, giving out information that you may have wanted to keep private. Where you are can reveal a lot about your life, and that makes it sensitive information. Should that information be hacked or stolen, it could cause serious harm.
Whatever you choose to do in your settings, make sure that you stay smart and stay safe. Keep location data, like any other information, as private as possible to optimize your safety on the Internet.