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Location-Based Apps and Online Privacy

Companies incorporate location based services in their apps to promote their business on the internet. But did you know that using such apps could compromise your online privacy and also security? You may wonder how an app used on your mobile is connected to privacy or security on the internet. Millions of apps with integrated location-based features and capabilities are being downloaded by mobile users today. When you knowingly or unknowingly use such apps, you are allowing the app developer or the business to track your location, and may be even share it online.

If you do not wish to support companies that are tracking online and offline activities of web and mobile users, then you need to be careful of how you use the location-based applications. Here are a few tips that you should remember to ensure online privacy while using mobile applications.

Share minimum data

Most of the mobile applications that you download, need you to register before you can start using them. When you do so, there are a few mandatory fields like the email id, name and password. The other fields like your date of birth, location etc are usually optional. When you have the option, it is best to stick to the bare minimum details and avoid giving more than what you should.

Also, the amount of information that is visible to the general public, your friends or only to you can also vary. For this, you need change the ‘privacy’ or ‘sharing’ settings to private, public or partially public. When you choose public, all your details can be viewed by all on the web. When you choose partially public, you can select what you want others to see and what you don’t.

Sharing exact location

When you download an app with location-based capabilities, you will be prompted to turn on your location visibility. When you do so, the service provider will be able to track your location and offer the services accordingly. Some apps, like the Facebook check-in app, also post the details of your exact location online. When don’t want to share the location or address of a particular location, like your workplace location, your private residence etc, you should change the privacy settings of the app and select ‘hide location’. In case of your iPhone, just choose the ‘location services’ in the settings tab and turn it off for the particular app.

Turn off pre-loaded settings

Not all app providers give you the option of modifying privacy settings. Some apps that you download come with pre-loaded location settings, which allow them to track your web usage, your online activities and more, whether or not you approve of it. As long as such an app is on your mobile, details about your activities can be tracked online. So before you download any app, it is best to check the settings and understand the kind of information it is gathering.

Automatic check-in features

Some apps may not be location based in particular, but they could very likely log your data and also post it online. The privacy settings of such apps can usually be changed through your phone settings and not necessarily through the app itself. You should be extra careful about such apps as you could be revealing your location details even without your knowledge. The Facebook app, which has the Geo-locations feature, is one such app you should use carefully.

Location services in apps can be great when you are looking for region-specific information or services. But if they are being used to track your location and reveal it on the net, it is a serious security concern and should handled immediately.

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