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Do you include a location when posting to Instagram or Facebook? Do you “check in” at restaurants…and playgrounds…to let everyone know what a great time you’re having? What about your kids? Are THEY telling the whole world what they’re doing and where they’re doing it?
Yikes! Sharing your location online seems like a pretty harmless thing to do–heck, bloggers do it all the time! But maybe it’s not the smartest idea.
Seeing as I have daily arguments with Siri, I decided to go to a real expert and chat about smart phone safety. Chad Warner is super dad and cybersecurity expert over at Defending Digital. Here’s his advice.
3 Reasons to Turn Location Sharing Off
Would you put tracking devices on your children, then set up a website to show their locations? I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t, because you know that could endanger your children. Yet many parents and kids carry phones that reveal their location! It isn’t fun, but you need to think about what harm nefarious people could do if they could track your children.
Do you want to make it easy for bullies to know where your children are?
Kids have a hard enough time with being bullied at school or online. If you or your kids have location sharing enabled, bullies may be able to locate them outside of school. And even if location sharing isn’t on constantly, a bully could still guess where your child will be by looking at the pattern of when past locations were shared.
Do you want to make it easy for thieves to know where you live?
A UK study found that “78% of burglars use social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare to choose just where they’re going to break in next.” The danger increases when you reveal that you are (or will be) away for several days. And theft isn’t the only thing to worry about; criminals often use these opportunities to try to scam you or your friends.
Do you want to make it easy for child predators to know where your children are?
It’s a sad reality that child predators use apps and websites to target children. If your child is communicating with a predator they think is a friend, do you want them sharing their location?
How to Stop Location Sharing
Now that we’ve seen a few disturbing ways location sharing can be abused, let’s see how to disable it.
…on an Apple Device
On an iPhone or iPad, you can completely disable location services, but that will prevent even uses you may want, such as Maps, Emergency Calls & SOS, and Find My iPhone. So, it’s better to go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services, then scroll down to the list of apps and set them all to Never except those that truly need your location, which you can set to While Using. Learn more from Apple.
…on an Android Device
On an Android device, you can completely disable location services, but that will prevent even uses you may want, such as Google Maps, Android Emergency Location Service, and Find My Device. So, it’s better to go to Settings > Security & location > Location > App level permissions, then turn off location permissions for all apps that don’t truly need your location. Learn more from Google.
Don’t Grant Location Requests
Pay attention to when your device asks for your location. If you disabled location services for an app in the step above, but then an app asks for your location and you allow it, you’ve undone your work. Grant access to your location only when it’s truly necessary, and you know how your location will be used.
You (or your kids) may be able to manually “check in” to restaurants and other places even if you have location services disabled on your device, so avoid “checking in.”
If you (or your kids) have taken the steps above but then post something like “Loving this burrito at Seoul Taco!” or tag Seoul Taco as your location in your, it won’t matter that you have location sharing disabled. Avoid stating or tagging your location.
It’s safer to share where you’ve been after you’ve left than when you’re there, but there is still some risk. If you go to certain places regularly (gym, coffee shop, library, etc.), it wouldn’t take much effort for someone to figure out the pattern of when you (or your kids) are typically at those places, and use that information against you. Think carefully before sharing any location info.
When you do choose to share location info, ensure that you limit the audience that can see it. Many apps and sites have a way to control who can see your activity. Use those controls.
Take Action on all your Family’s Devices
Take a few minutes now to check the location sharing settings in your phone’s operating system (iOS or Android) and your apps. Then, share what you learned with your children or a friend!
Chad Warner runs DefendingDigital.com, a site to help you and your family defend your digital life. He is a security and privacy enthusiast who has worked in IT and web development. As a parent of young children, Chad is committed to staying on top of digital security and privacy, to protect his kids and teach them security and privacy principles. Chad is a fan of Tolkien and LEGO.