The fact that smartphones know our exact location is not new; Chances are you’ve already downloaded an app that wants to get your location data. And while that’s fine, many apps don’t need to know your location but still have it. Here’s how you can stop apps like Instagram from tracking your precise location on your iPhone or Android.
A viral image doing the rounds on Instagram and TikTok is warning users to turn off the precise location setting on their iPhone for select apps, and it’s only gaining momentum. So what is this accurate location feature, what does it do, and how can you turn it off? Read on for all the details.
What is an exact location?
The precise location feature was first introduced in 2020 on iOS as a system-level setting. It came on iOS 14 for iPhone, iPad and watchOS 7. In addition, Google added a similar system-wide location setting with Android 12 in 2021.
Essentially, apps already had your exact location. Only now Google and Apple let users choose whether to enable or disable it.
For what it’s worth, both iPhone and Android already offer several location control features, including the option to give apps access to your location once or only while actively using a particular app. The “precise location” toggle helps with that and gives users extra peace of mind.
Most phones and apps use GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or all three to determine your location. However, with the precise location feature, you can control whether an app knows your exact whereabouts or can only access approximate location data.
We’re talking about apps like Instagram, Facebook, Google Maps, Uber, TikTok, Postmates and others. Map and navigation apps need accurate data, but it’s up to you to decide if the others deserve that information.
How to turn off precise location on iPhone
Open an app like Instagram and tap Location
Scroll down and slide the Precise Position switch to Off.
Turn off precise location when you open the app for the first time.
Now that you know the exact location option on iPhone, you probably want to turn it off in specific apps. On the iPhone, there are two different ways to access this privacy tool.
For apps like Instagram, Facebook, or anything else you already use frequently (that’s not a newly downloaded app), you’ll need to go into settings and disable it for each app.
Navigate to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > Tap the app and it’s there Location Settings > scroll down and tap Toggle exact location to change it out. You can see examples in the screenshot gallery above.
Next, hit back and return to the “Location Services” app list and repeat the process for each other app you’d rather not share your precise location with. As a reminder, you will only see this option if the application already has access to your location.
Or when you open an app for the first time, you get a popup asking you to give it access to location information. From here you can choose between “Allow once”, “Allow while using the app” or “Don’t allow”. If this is the first time you get this pop-up, tap the “Precise” button in the middle-left of the prompt to turn off precise location data.
How to turn off precise location on Android
Go to Settings > Location (or the Privacy Dashboard)
Under Locations > tap “App Permissions”
Scroll down and open an app like Instagram and tap on the “Precise location” switch.
The process is almost the same for Android, just with slightly different wording. You can quickly access this menu on Pixel devices in the “Privacy Dashboard”. Go to on Android devices Settings > Location > App Permissions > Find and tap the app you want to change > and tap the Toggle exact location and toggle it out. You can see examples in the screenshot gallery above.
Next, hit back and return to the list of apps and repeat the steps for any other apps you want to revoke access to your information.
As a reminder, you will only see this option if the application already has access to your location. If not, the precise location will not be toggled.
When should you leave precise location turned on?
It’s important to mention that you’ll probably want to keep the precise location option enabled for certain apps or features on your device. A good example is a ride-sharing app like Uber, which needs pinpoint accuracy to send a driver to your location. The same applies to Apple or Google Maps, Waze and other navigation services.
Additionally, you should keep this feature enabled on something like wearOS and other stock apps that many people use to track phones and accessories. If you turn off all location data, you won’t be able to use Find My Phone apps to locate a lost or stolen device.
Keep in mind that apps won’t have your exact information if you “check in” on Facebook or add your location to an Instagram story after you’ve done so. However, it should still be close enough to mark a restaurant, monument, or other location along your journey.
If you’re worried about apps knowing your every move, turning off precise location on your iPhone or Android takes just a few seconds. As simple as that.
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