Good Question: Why do apps track your location?
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — With all the apps people rely on every day, have you ever felt like you’re being tracked? In some cases, you are.
A professor from the Rochester Institute of Technology explains why apps ask for your location and the risks associated with sharing it.
“You know all these big giant tech companies, I mean that’s really how they make a lot of their money, is user data,” said Dr. Brian Tomaszewski, professor of Geographic Information Systems at RIT.
Users of iPhone and Android alike have probably seen a pop-up on their phones asking for their location. One of you asked us: “Why do weather apps, such as TV 10’s, want to know my location?”
News10NBC’s Emily Putnam: “Why do apps, particularly weather apps, ask for your location?”
Tomaszewski: “They ask for your location because they’re trying to target your device with sort of location-specific content. …They’re going to want to know your location for both weather data, but I’m also getting ads pushed at me that could be based on, you know, ads for locally-based things.”
Weather apps aren’t the only ones that ask for a location.
Tomaszewski: “Probably the most straightforward example would be Uber. …When you call for an Uber, it’s gonna want to know where you’re located so the driver can come find you.”
Location sharing is top of mind for a lot of Americans right now as states like Montana consider banning TikTok.
Tomaszewski: “I think that’s gonna be really difficult to try to have a state-by-state ban. That would get into the internet service providers. How do you stop TikTok from coming in?”
What’s the best way to protect yourself if you don’t want to share your location? The first step is to delete any apps you’re not using. If you downloaded something once and haven’t used it in years, get rid of it.
Next, check your permissions on each individual app. Go into your settings, and turn location sharing “off.”
Putting your phone in airplane mode does not stop apps from tracking your location. Lastly, use your best judgment. If the app looks strange or has questionable reviews, it’s probably best not to download it.
If you have a good question, send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org