The modern phone is also a navigator that tracks its owner’s location and transmits information to applications and sites.
People are increasingly sharing geodata with relatives and friends. And not only situationally – for example, to make it easier to find each other in a public place. Some allow you to track your movements on a regular basis: some apps and social networks are built around this.
There are two sides to geolocation sharing: it is very convenient, but in the hands of ill-wishers, access to geolocation becomes a surveillance tool. We’ll talk about both sides: how to share your location safely and what will help you avoid stalking.
What is geo data and how to share it?
Geodata is information about an object’s geographic location. For example, your phone or computer. It doesn’t only work by connecting to a satellite: you can also get geolocation without GPS. All smartphones now have geolocation.
Your device’s location is determined in three ways:
- By GPS satellites. The phone uses only the data of the GPS module. In the device, this mode may be called “By device sensors”.
- By network coordinates. Your phone uses wireless networks – wifi, Bluetooth, and mobile networks. This mode saves battery, so it is often called “Power Saving”.
- From all sources. The phone combines all of the above data sources.
Geolocation is used in many familiar situations, from creating a route on a map to automatically saving places where photos were taken. Different applications ask for access to geolocation in different contexts.
In-cab services, for example, you can turn on “Show me where I am” in addition to your address, making it easier for the driver to find you. And when ordering food in apps, you can track the courier’s movement.
But the main use of the feature is to share your location with a friend. Here are four handy ways to do this. Important: First, make sure you have geo-positioning enabled on your phone and that the apps you need have access to it.
Tracking geolocation via iPhone
If you have an iPhone, you can share geolocation through the Locator app, which is a standard service for iOS. It shows all your Apple devices on the map, just link them to one account. There you can also set up notifications about “forgotten” gadgets: for example, if you are far away from the headphones, the iPhone will receive a message. Another feature is tracking your things with the AirTag geo-bag.
In “Locator” you can track not only your devices but also the movements of your friends. For this purpose, there is a special tab “People”, which contains those who share geolocation with you and those who see you.
To share your geolocation with a person, select him or her from your contact list. There are several options: share for an hour, until the end of the day, or indefinitely. Remember, in order to track another person’s geo-position, you must first share your location with them.
You can build the most convenient route to the person you want to meet. There is also a function of notifications when a friend arrives at a certain place on the map or, conversely, leaves it. In the same way, friends can receive notifications about your movements.
Disabling the function is easy: you can “hide” from a particular friend or use the “Share geo-position” setting in the “Me” section.
Tracking geolocation via Android
If you have an Android smartphone. Open the app and tap on your profile in the top right corner. In the menu, find the “Share geo data” tab. Select your friends from your phonebook or Google contacts. You can also generate a link and send it in messenger.
The geo-position transfer will continue to work even if you close Google Maps. Users will be able to see not only your movements but also the places you have visited, monitor the battery level, and check whether you are walking or using transport. You can set the feature’s runtime – from an hour to a day – or select the “Until I turn it off” option.
Tracking geolocation via Telegram
To do this, open a correspondence with the person or general chat, click on the clip icon and select “Geolocation” or “Location” in the pop-up menu.
You can choose the format of the geodata broadcast. “Static” sends the location at a particular moment. And if you put “Constantly updated”, the data on the movement will be visible for 15 minutes, an hour or eight hours. In this case, the map is updated in real time, the broadcast can be easily interrupted at any time.
Similar functions with static or updated geolocation are available in Watsap and Viber.
Share geolocation with your mobile operator. Cellular carriers provide a service to track your own location or that of your friends and family, with their consent.
What geolocation sharing apps are available?
There are many apps where geolocation tracking is a core function and the basis for a social component. Here are four prime examples.
A French social network that has existed since 2014 and has become particularly popular in Europe.
In the app, you can track your friends’ locations on a city map and see what they are doing. To do this, you need to add each other to Zenly: it is impossible to sign up unilaterally and just follow the person. You don’t need to keep the app open all the time to share geolocation: other users see you all the time. Friends can put emoji reactions to their movements.
According to TechCrunch, the main audience of the service are teenagers who are interested to see which of their friends are spending time together. Privacy issues for users are receding into the background and social interaction is coming to the fore. In Zenly, you can temporarily enable invisible mode, but you can completely abandon the transfer of geodata only if you uninstall the application.
An app for finding speakers of different languages. With the help of GPS service finds people who are ready to communicate in the language they learn or know. Suitable for those who have moved to another country and need to practice speaking. You can communicate in the app in more than 500 languages around the world.
Messenger helps you find like-minded people nearby. In the application, you can create thematic communities that users living nearby can join. The language of the social network is still only English.
There are many applications for parental control, which include the ability to track the geolocation of the child. Choose such a service carefully to prevent data leakage. Some such projects have already been accused of selling information about users’ movements.
Tracking through Google
One proven service is an app from Google, where parental controls are tied to the features of Android smartphones. But you should not constantly check the geo-positioning, and install the app without the child’s knowledge – so caution can turn into snooping.
How to know where the geo data is transmitted and how to hide it?
There are situations when you want to avoid geolocation tracking. In that case, you can disable it completely at the system level or go through the applications with access to geodata. In both iOS and Android, you can see which services are requesting location data, and restrict their operation.
To find out if you have geolocation enabled and which apps have accessed your location, do the following.
If you have an iPhone. Go to Settings, then Privacy, and select Geolocation Services.
You will see a list of apps with geolocation tracking status. The options are four: “Always”, “When used”, “When sent”, or “Never”. For example, on my phone, only Telegram always tracks geolocation: if I turn it off, I can’t share my location in conversations.
If you turn off geolocation on your iPhone, the settings will still work if you use the “Find iPhone” feature. You will be able to activate it if your device goes missing.
If you have an Android smartphone. Open the “Location” section in “Settings”. Depending on your phone model, the path may be different: it’s worth looking under the “Privacy”, “Security & Location”, or “Protection & Location” tabs. There you can disable location access for all apps or select individual apps that can use it.
In the settings on your Android gadget, you can also disable the transfer of geodata to Google services and clear your location history. To do this, click on the “Location History” and “Geo-transfer” links at the bottom of the screen.
How to avoid being tracked by geolocation: some tips?
Periodically check which apps have access to your geolocation. If you find applications that you have not installed or that should not be tracking your movements – uninstall them or disable access to geolocation.
On your iPhone, turn on the “App Privacy Report” feature. It shows how often apps have accessed your geo-position, photos, camera, microphone, contacts, and more in the last seven days.
Share geolocation only for a limited time, when you need it. It’s only worthwhile to enable unlimited location tracking for family members and close friends. But even your closest ones may want to hide information about your movements for a while, so don’t forget to turn off your data.
Periodically check who has access to your location through Latitude or other services. Delete people you don’t know or who you no longer want to share data with.
Don’t share geolocation on social networks like Zenly with people you don’t know well. These people can find out your location so they can follow you. Or, conversely, take advantage of your absence from home.
Check your belongings and personal vehicles so you don’t get planted with an AirTag or other tracking device. Stalkers are increasingly doing this. The easiest way to spot an unauthorized AirTag: it’s automatically recognized by iPhones with iOS version 14.5 or newer. If you have an Android smartphone, download Apple’s Tracker Detect app.
If you detect a tracking device, disable it. If it’s an AirTag – in the Locator or Tracker Detect apps. If from another manufacturer – find out how to remove the battery.