Have you seen warnings on social media this week about a recent iOS or Instagram update that turns on “Precise Location,” which will help criminals track your whereabouts?
You can relax; Precise Location is not new and its goal is to provide you plus control over how apps track your location. That said, precise location is on by default, and internet craze is a good reminder to check how the apps you use the most are tracking your activity.
What is precise location?
Precise location is a system-level setting on iOS and Android and applies to apps that use location data. Apple released it in 2020 with iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and watchOS 7; Google did the same with Android 12. However, it is not limited to Instagram fake warnings about it seem to be proliferating there at the moment.
As Apple said during its 2020 WWDC keynote: “This year, we will continue to give you even more control. In addition to the option to share your precise location, you will have the option to share only your approximate location with apps.”
Meanwhile, in a 2021 preview of Android 12, we wrote: “Apps that need to access Bluetooth will no longer require location information, and a new ‘approximate location’ option prevents apps from knowing your exact location.”
Most apps don’t really need to know your location, but in the years before Apple and Google cracked down on aggressive permission requests, lots of random apps accessed your location just because they could. That has evolved in recent years. In iOS 13, for example, Apple added the option for apps to ask for permission every time they want to use your location. Then Precise Location appeared in iOS 14, which also required apps to ask users for permission before tracking people within individual apps (much to Facebook’s annoyance).
Starting with iOS 15.6.1, you can tell apps when to track your location: Never, Ask next time, or When I share, While using the app, or Always. If you select anything other than Never, iOS will turn on precise location by default. As described in fine print, Precise Location “allows apps to use your specific location. With this setting turned off, apps can only determine your approximate location.
Apple says that the approximate location covers an area of about 10 square miles. According to Google’s Android Developer site, an approximate location on Android is 1.2 square miles. With pinpoint location turned on, it’s within 10 to 160 feet.
Why do you want to turn on precise location?
Precise location is useful in apps like Google Maps or Apple Maps, which can pinpoint your location to provide turn-by-turn directions. Or on ride-sharing apps, which can determine where you are to show available vehicles in the area. Maybe you want to find a restaurant within walking distance. The precise location on Yelp might be helpful there.
In social media apps like Instagram, the usefulness of Precise Location really depends on how you use the apps. If you want to check in to exact locations (restaurants, clubs, hotels), it will give Instagram or Facebook a closer view of where you are and give you more relevant locations for you to tag in your post.
Why are people going crazy?
The allegation on social media this week is that a recent iOS update turned on Precise Location and your phone now broadcasts your exact location even if you select a more general area on apps like Instagram (114 5th Ave. vs. New York City, for example). ). ).
“For example, if you choose to tag your geolocation in a post or story, if your ‘precise location’ is turned on in your iPhone settings, it will tag your specific location (usually within 20 feet). If ‘precise location’ is off, it will only tag the location you tag, for example the city you tag, restaurant or park, etc. ”, reads an Instagram post with more than 106,000 likes. “This is being used by individuals to target people to commit crimes including robbery, stalking, etc.” the post adds.
The account that posted that information is an influencer marketing firm with more than 30,000 followers, and its message has been spread today by several high-profile accounts. We’ve DMed the account asking for examples of precise locations mishandled or crimes committed, and will update if they respond.
But the information is false. Instagram shot him down today on Twitter.
“To be clear, we do not share your location with others. Like other social media companies, we use precise location for things like location tags and map features,” he said.
None of the recent iOS updatesmeanwhile, mention location services.
How to disable precise location
If you’re really worried about people seeing your location on Instagram or other social media accounts, make those accounts private and don’t tag your location at all.
To see which iPhone apps have access to your location, go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services. This page will list the apps and their location permission levels. To revoke access to Location Accuracy in an app, touch the app and turn off Location Accuracy.
If you know the app you want to restrict, you can also navigate to Settings and scroll down to the app, like Instagram or Facebook, and turn off Location Accuracy there.
Android has a similar setting if you want to limit location tracking on a Google-based device.