The original post is located HERE. I just thought this article may interest some people.
Have you ever wondered how Facebook seems to know the exact city you’re posting from? Whether you’re on a computer, a smartphone or some other type of electronic device, chances are it has geolocation functions built into it. Geolocation is the term for the identification of the exact location of an object, which can be done using a variety of methods such as global positioning, radio frequency location and Wi-Fi proximity. This technology is what makes turn-by-turn directions with Google Maps possible, and while it has plenty of benefits and uses, geolocation can also have some drawbacks — especially when it comes to your privacy.
What are the benefits of geolocation?
The amount of people using geolocation-based services has jumped dramatically as the technology has become more and more integrated into almost every app and phone function we use. To illustrate this, consider a 2010 study done by the Pew Research Center which asserted 7% of Americans using mobile phones with Internet access utilize location-based services. Three years later in 2013, a similar study found that this percentage had increased to 74% of adult smartphone users. As geolocation has become a larger aspect of our lives, it has helped develop features that make our lives easier. Here are some of its benefits:
1. Finding a lost/stolen phone is a breeze. Geolocation technology makes it possible for a lost or stolen phone to be located easily. Whether you’re using a built-in feature like Apple’s Find My Friends or have installed a mobile security app with anti-theft features onto your phone, almost any mobile phone can be set up to be located in the event it leaves your hands. Given the high cost of mobile devices and how much personal data we keep on them these days, this is a valuable feature to have.Read this article to learn more about the top mobile security apps offering anti-theft protection.
2. Improving emergency services and alerts. Not only does geolocation make it possible for emergency services to track your location in the event of an emergency, but this technology is also being used to create better alerts for storms, security events and more. For instance, the current weather alert system, which is built into most phones, uses GPS to send out a warning to devices in a given area, but it can often be too widespread. People who aren’t in the area wind up getting a warning, and due to the warnings not being specific enough, some people opt to ignore them. To combat these general warnings, new technology is being developed that would use geolocation to create an alert app which would only notify mobile users who are in the exact are where the danger is.
3. You don’t need to stop and ask for directions. Well, that’s not entirely true — some areas with poor reception or places you need to navigate on foot might require the occasional stop. But gone are the days when you needed to pull over to pore over a paper map or print out dubious MapQuest directions before heading out the door. Apps like Google Maps are getting smarter and smarter, and geolocation technology is what makes them possible. And other apps like Yelp use geolocation to show you what’s nearby, which is a great benefit when you’re wandering around an unfamiliar city at dinner time and craving a decent burger.
What are the drawbacks of geolocation?
As with many technologies, geolocation can certainly be helpful, but it can also be dangerous if users aren’t careful. Here are a few things to be aware of when it comes to geolocation:
1. It puts your privacy at risk. That’s a pretty broad statement, but it’s also the most significant risk geolocation presents to the average user. Everything from social media apps to the photos you take and store in your phone uses geolocation data, and most people tend to breeze straight through screens informing them when an app is requesting permission to use their location. The best thing you can do is slow down when installing new apps and pay attention to the permissions screen that pops up informing you what data or features the app will be accessing. Mobile security apps, such as the one offered by ESET, can be helpful when it comes to determining whether apps are invading your privacy or not. ESET’s Privacy Advisor feature gives you a rundown of what permissions the apps on your phone have, and it even filters them by permission type so you can view all the apps which track your location at a glance.
2. You share your whereabouts without even realizing it. Did you know that every picture you take with your phone or mobile device is stored with the exact location data of where it was taken? When you upload these pictures to social media sites, photo sharing sites or even dating sites, people who know what to look for could easily determine where you were when you took the pictures — which puts your privacy and safety at risk. Fortunately, it’s possible to turn off geolocation for photos and videos on your phone. Depending on what type of phone you have, this is usually a matter of going into either your phone’s general location settings or camera settings.
3. Companies and the government can use it to track your every move. The apps and websites you use collect and track your location data if you enable geolocation, and while most of this information is used for marketing purposes, the ability to be tracked through your mobile device is something that should have all consumers on alert. Beyond corporations, there’s a risk of government surveillance using geolocation technology that many people are concerned about. So concerned, in fact, that in 2011 a bill called the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance Act was introduced in Congress. This act seeks to limit government surveillance using geolocation information, and it was recently reintroduced in January 2015. Additional legislation regarding the prevention of companies from collecting and disclosing geolocation information without the permission of the user was also introduced in 2014. So far, none of these have been passed, but if people continue to advocate for their rights to privacy, there’s hope that they will be.
While geolocation certainly has many benefits to businesses as well as everyday citizens, it also presents a whole host of privacy issues that make using mobile devices more complicated than ever before. Paying attention to the small print when downloading and using applications, as well as looking at your phone’s default settings can help you be more aware of how and when your geolocation data is being used so you can make informed decisions about when you are okay with its use.
Another way to ensure that geolocation doesn’t invade your privacy is to simply turn your phone’s GPS off. This might make it difficult to use certain apps, but you can always reactivate it temporarily if you really need it. Keep in mind, you may also need to go into individual apps’ settings to ensure location data isn’t being stored or tracked even after disabling the GPS on your phone. As already suggested, a good mobile security app can help you be aware of which apps are still using this information.