Note: This article has been updated to reflect changes in iOS. The original version of this article relates to iOS 4 and is not applicable to the current generation of iOS devices. We have left the original information below for legacy purposes and have updated this article with information that applies to modern iOS devices.
How to disable location tracking on iOS8 or later
As of iOS8, you can adjust a wide range of privacy settings, including location tracking, from the Privacy menu, under Settings. From within the privacy menu, click on Location Services. You’ll be presented with a wide range of options for enabling or disabling location services in certain situations and for certain apps. There will also be an option for enabling or disabling foreground and background use of location services. Uncheck all the settings you don’t feel comfortable with and your device will no longer collect this location data.
Location tracking issues in iOS4
If you have an iPhone or iPad, your movements are constantly tracked, likely without your knowledge or your explicit consent. Security researchers discovered a hidden file on the devices that contains a temporal record of a user’s latitude and longitude. When extrapolated, the data become a roadmap of a user’s movements for months — a scary proposition given how valuable the information could be to a stalker or a jealous ex.
The file, labeled “consolidated.db,” seems to have come into effect with the start of Apple’s iOS 4 update, which was released in June 2010. For additional information, the researchers behind this discovery created a website that explains the technical specifics of the file and that offers answers to concerns. If you’re concerned about how to disable your iPad from tracking this location information, which affects your privacy, read our steps on how to prevent local access to this data.
Why tracking data matters
It’s important to note that while Apple isn’t in fact harvesting this data as part of some insidious plot, your location data may still pose a potential privacy risk.
Nowadays, we all walk around with our devices in our pockets, in our purses or in our backpacks. And even though we’re not touching them, they’re gleening data about where we travel and when. To some, this information may seem harmless until it’s realized that having your device stolen or hacked can lead the culprit to knowing exactly where you live, work and spend your spare time. By cross-referencing a map of your activity with information about you found in a simple Google search, they can access a wealth of data about every element of your daily life.
How to disable iPad tracking by disabling the location tracking file
Unfortunately, there is no way to turn location tracking off if you’re using a standard iPhone or iPad device. However, you can prevent the information from being locally accessible. To do this, follow these three simple steps:
- Plug your device into your computer and open iTunes.
- From iTunes, select your device.
- You’ll see a text box labeled “Options.” Here, you can choose the option “Encrypt iPhone backup.” When you select that box, you’ll be prompted to create a password that encrypts access to your data. While this won’t stop your personal data from being collected, it’ll make it much more difficult for anyone to access the data should you lose your mobile device.
Other online privacy risks
Apple isn’t the only company out there collecting your personal and private information. Companies like Spokeo, Intelius, MyLife, and Whitepages collect information like your age, income, address, aliases, family members names, and far more. This information can be used for marketing reasons, but also for more nefarious activities like stalking or identity theft. To learn more about what you can do to protect yourself from people-search companies, check out our article How To Remove Information From Google & Public Records.