Hidden deep in the architecture of your Apple iPhone is a secret feature keeping record of everywhere you go. This software feature is also buried in Android phones.
The feature is called “Frequent Locations,” and although the data is easy to delete, the tracking must be turned off manually in your smartphone’s settings. Most people probably have no idea this feature exists, let alone is tracking their every move.
Frequent Locations — if enabled, and it is by default — allows your iPhone to learn places you frequently visit in order to provide useful location-related information.
Why, you may ask, would you want to turn Frequent Locations off? Well, for starters, when this feature is activated your iPhone is tracking every location you visit.
Speaking to WPIX news, retired NYPD detective Patrick J. Bronsan said this feature was useful for law enforcement. Bronsan explained:
“It’s both a homing device and it’s a confession. There’s a range of cases that the information obtained from the phone, established innocence or guilt.”
There have even been civil cases in which location data was successfully used. Divorce attorney, Robert Wallack, told WPIX that he has successfully used this information for judgment on custody in alimony cases. “If someone claims they’re at work or away, we’re able to find out they’re not; and doing things they shouldn’t be doing.”
For what it’s worth, Apple has pledged that it won’t share this information without your consent. The company reiterated this on its support page, saying:
“To learn places that are significant to you, your iOS device will keep track of places you have recently been, as well as how often and when you visited them. This data is kept solely on your device and won't be sent to Apple without your consent. It will be used to provide you with personalized services, such as predictive traffic routing.”
It goes without saying that people should be able to move about freely without creating a digital footprint of everywhere you go. There is potential for this kind of technology to be used maliciously, or against you, and it’s always a good idea to cover your tracks for privacy purposes.
How to turn off Frequent Locations on iPhone
To delete your data or turn off Frequent Locations, you must access the folder “Location Services,” found in your iPhone’s settings pages, before accessing the “Frequent Locations” setting. (Click on Settings > go to Privacy > select Location Services > scroll down to System Services > and choose Frequent Locations.) There, you can see your full location logs and, if you choose, turn the feature off.
We recommend deleting the data you see there, and then turning off the feature; simply tap the slider to Off.
How to turn off Frequent Locations on Android
- Open the App Drawer and go to Settings.
- Scroll down and tap Location.
- Scroll down and tap Google Location Settings.
- Tap Location Reporting and Location History, and switch the slider to off for each one.
- To delete your phone's location cache, tap "Delete Location History" at the bottom of the screen under Location History.
- Repeat this process for each Google Account you have on your Android device.
As goes with iPhone users, Android users should also take a look at the logged record of where you've been, and then delete your location logs and turn the feature off. Just keep in mind that Google’s tracking feature is a bit harder to escape than Apple’s. You must switch the feature off on all your Google accounts, or your phone could still track you.
Oh, hey, speaking of Google security, if you've got extra time and want to review your Google privacy settings (or to beef up security), take a look at our handy guide for tips to manage the security settings of your Google accounts.