How to turn your iPhone’s location tracking on or off

How to turn your iPhone’s location tracking on or off

Your iPhone uses information from your cell service, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS to pinpoint its location, and since you almost always have your phone on you, your location as well. That information can be useful for a lot of things, such as letting others know where you are or finding your phone when it’s lost. Other times, it’s just more information that services and companies collect about you, creating privacy concerns.

The good news is you can tighten your controls so that apps are only accessing your location when it’s necessary.

Toggling your location settings differs from phone to phone, depending on what model of iPhone you have and what version of iOS it’s running. For example, there have been issues with restricting the iPhone 11’s location access, and you’ll need to use the Find My Friends app instead of the Find My app if you’re running iOS 8 through 12. We’ve addressed how to deal with all of that below.

Turning off location access for specific apps

Location data is useful for some apps (for example, if you want to order food) and necessary for others, like maps or ride-shares. However, if an app asks for your location and you don’t feel it needs the data, you can disable location services for that app. Here’s how to do that.

  • Open Settings
  • Go to “Privacy” > “Location Services”
  • Make sure “Location Services” is switched on
  • Scroll down to find a list of all the apps that enable location services. If you want to limit a specific app’s access to your location data, click on the name of the app.
  • You’ll be able to select between Always, While Using the App, Ask Next Time, and Never. (Some apps may not have all of these choices.)

If you click “While Using the App,” then that app will have access to your location either when it’s open or when it’s in use in the background (denoted by a blue bar at the top of your screen).

For more ways to limit location access, click on “System Services” at the bottom of the “Location Services” screen. Here, you can toggle location access for a number of things, including Wi-Fi, time zone, emergency calls, and Apple News and App Store ads that are relevant to your location.

To check whether your phone is still collecting location data, go down to the very bottom of the “System Services” screen and toggle the switch for “Status Bar Icon.” This will display an arrow at the top of your screen when an app on your phone is accessing your location.

If you want to truly go off the grid, you can disable location services to prevent your phone from collecting any location data at all:

  • Open Settings
  • Go to “Privacy” > “Location Services”
  • Toggle the “Location Services” switch to off

If you have an iPhone 11

If you have an iPhone 11 or iPhone 11 Pro and have disabled location services for specific apps, you may find that you still sometimes see the arrow. According to Apple, this is because these models use ultra wideband technology, which Apple says is regulated, so the phones use location services to determine if they’re in an area where ultra wideband use is restricted.

The iPhone 11 requests location data when location preferences are set on an app-per-app basis, so switching off location services for your phone overall will stop these location requests since your phone won’t be able to collect any location data.

Share your location with individuals (iOS 13)

If you’re walking alone at night or you’re in an Uber by yourself, you might want a friend or family member to know your location in real time. If you have iOS 13 or later, you can use the Find My app to share your location with family and friends.

  • Open “Settings”
  • Go into “Privacy,” and make sure “Location Services” is switched on
  • In the main “Settings” menu, tap on your name at the top
  • Select “Find My”
  • Toggle “Share My Location” so that it’s on
  • Then go to the Find My app. If this is your first time using the app, it will ask you whether you want it to access your location. Choose either to “Allow While Using App,” “Allow Once,” or “Don’t Allow.”
  • Select “People” (you may need to pull the tab up in order to view the window properly)
  • Click the button that says either “Share My Location” or “Start Sharing Location”
  • In the “To:” field, type in either the phone number or name of your friend or family member
  • Tap “Send,” then select either “Share for One Hour,” “Share Until End of Day,” or “Share Indefinitely”

It will then start sharing your location. In order to switch it off, click on your contact’s name in the “Find My” app under “People,” then pull up the tab, scroll down, and click “Stop Sharing My Location” at the bottom. Confirm by clicking on the “Stop Sharing Location” button that pops up.

You can share your location through Messages as well:

  • Open a conversation in Messages
  • Tap on the contact name and then click “Info”
  • This will give you the option to “Send My Location” or to “Share My Location.” If you choose “Send My Location,” it’ll drop a pin on your location and send a link to your contact to view it in Apple’s Maps app. If you click on “Share My Location,” it will give you the option to “Share for One Hour,” “Share Until End of Day,” or “Share Indefinitely.” Click one of those to start sharing.
  • If you want to stop sharing, click “Stop Sharing My Location” where “Share My Location” was. A button labeled “Stop Sharing My Location” will pop up. Click on that.

Share your location using iOS 12 or earlier

Although you won’t have the Find My app if you’re not using iOS 13, you can still share your location with others by using the Find My Friends app. Find My Friends is automatically installed on iOS 9 through 12, but if you’re running iOS 8, you can download it for free from the App Store. In order to share your location with another person through Find My Friends, that person needs to have Find My Friends set up as well. To share your location:

  • In the Find My Friends app, click “Add Friends.” (If you can’t see the “Add Friends” button, you may need to click on the arrow in the top left corner.)
  • Select which friends you want to add or type their names or email addresses into the “To:” bar
  • Click “Send” or “Done”

To stop sharing your location, click on that person’s name, and then click “Stop Sharing My Location.” Click on “Stop Sharing My Location” when it pops up again.

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