Why your phone tracking your GPS location is a problem

Today we're going to touch on the latest news in how your phone is selling your location to 3rd party companies – and we're going to discuss why this is important. The most common thing I hear when I tell people they're being tracked and/or surveilled is something along the lines of this: "I don't care, why would they want to listen to me or follow me anyway?" There are several reasons every single person should be aware of how they're being tracked – and news this week shows that there's real reason to be alarmed.

NYTimes Revelations

This week a location data tracking app was investigated by the New York Times. Their investigation showed the shocking extent to which a single person was tracked without their knowledge. They went through, for example, how one app tracked a schoolteacher's every move, every day she had a certain app installed, thousands of times a day – then sold that info without her knowledge.

How is this legal?

There's really no precedent. It is lawmaker's job to see this as a problem and to then act upon the situation, making the sale of location information illegal. There are bills going through the United States Senate right now that aim to limit "the collection and sale" of location data. This bill was proposed by Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon.

Versions of the "Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance Act" have been appearing in Congress and the Senate for around half a decade. Both democrats and republicans have been sponsors on the bill, introducing and reintroducing the bill in the 112th, 113th, 114th, and 115th Congress. According to GPS dot gov, "the GPS Act would prohibit businesses from disclosing geographical tracking data about its customers to others without the customers' permission."

Until that, or something reasonably similar to that, is voted into law, the United States government has no sufficient legal language barring any company from gathering and/or sharing location data from and to any person or business entity.

Why is this a problem?

I'm not here to tell you that privacy is important because you have the right to be private. You probably already know that – you've probably got a litany of opinions on the matter, too. I'm not here to change your mind on privacy.

What I'd like to point out is the fact that there's a distinct possibility that malicious parties could gain access to your location data – or any other data, for that matter. Let's just stick to location data today. What could a Bad Guy do with your live location data?

A Bad Guy could use your location data to:

• See where you go to work

• See where your kids go to school

• Find your favorite hang-out spots

• Track your habits

• See when you're out of the house

• Pinpoint when you're on vacation

So let's say a villain somehow gained access to the GPS location data your phone is tracking and transmitting almost non-stop. What might they do if they've been tracking you for a while and know that you're usually out of the house on Friday night for approximately 4 hours?

OK how do I turn off location tracking?

Assuming you've not already taken your phone and smashed it with a hammer, you COULD just turn off your device's ability to track location data. To do this, you'll have to know first if you have an iOS or Android phone. If you have a Windows Phone or a BlackBerry with webOS, you're on your own.

How to turn off GPS location on an iPhone:

1. Open Settings, swipe down and tap on Privacy

2. Tap Location Services

3. Tap the switch next to Location Services (from green (ON) to white (OFF))

How to turn off GPS location on an Android:

1. Open Settings, swipe down and tap on "Security & location"

2. Swipe down to Privacy, find Location, tap Location

3. Tap the switch next to Use Location (from blue (ON) to gray (OFF))

NOTE: Your process may be a little different depending on the device you have and the version of iOS or Android your device is running. If you can't find GPS, Location, or anything of the like, let us know what kind of device you've got – we'll do our best to help you out!

But what about Find My Phone?

That's a very special topic I'd like to save for later this week. Stick around or hit this link up again in a day or two and we'll discuss how you can make losing your phone far less of a PANIC-stricken event, even if you might never get your phone back again.