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8/26/2014
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Location Tracking: 6 Social App Settings To Check

Popular social apps, including Facebook, Google, Foursquare, and Twitter, may track your every move. Get the lowdown -- and instructions for turning off these options.

3D Mapping Data's Future: 8 Examples
3D Mapping Data's Future: 8 Examples
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Late last year, the Federal Trade Commission fined one of Android's most popular apps, called Brightest Flashlight Free, after an investigation found that the app tracked and sold users' precise location information without their consent.

While the app's privacy policy disclosed that it collected this sort of data, it didn't warn users that it routinely shared this information with third parties. Goldenshores Technologies, the maker of the app, was later forced to delete all the information it had collected.

Passive location tracking, in which applications track where you are even when you're not using the app, has grown in popularity. Users often agree to these location services when downloading the app or speeding through permission pop-ups.

[Facebook's latest privacy changes include welcome improvements. Read Facebook Privacy: 10 Settings To Check.]

Facebook, for example, uses this technology in an opt-in feature called Nearby Friends, which pinpoints your location on a map so your friends can see where you are. Foursquare uses passive location tracking to push deals and recommendations to your device when you're near a restaurant that matches your interests, and Google tracks your daily movements on a map "to improve search results."

But in the era of NSA and government data requests, not everyone is comfortable with companies tracking their every move. In a report on location-based services published last year, Pew Research found that while there was notable growth in the number of social media users who set their accounts to include location in their posts, 35% of adult users said they have turned off location-tracking features on their phones because they were worried about other people or companies accessing this information.

But opting out of these settings isn't always easy. Here's a look into how Google, Facebook, Messenger, Foursquare, Swarm, and Twitter track your location, plus instructions for disabling the location-tracking features.

Google
Google, like many other apps and websites, knows a lot about you: your demographics, interests, and online browsing habits, for example. But one thing you may not realize Google tracks is every place you and your phone travel to, with surprising (and creepy) accuracy.

Take a look at Google's location-tracking site and log in with your account credentials. Some users may see a blank map, but others will see detailed routes outlined in red depicting exactly where you have been. You can use the calendar on the left to sort your movements by a specific day or hover over a point on the map to see what time you were there.

Google says it tracks this information to "use it to improve your search results based on the places you've been." If you're not comfortable with Google knowing your every move, you can turn it off and delete your history.

Visit your Account History page to turn this setting off. After you log in, select the "Places you've been" option, then click Pause to turn it off. To delete your entire location history, visit your Location History page and select "Delete all history." You can also delete your history for certain days by 

Kristin Burnham currently serves as InformationWeek.com's Senior Editor, covering social media, social business, IT leadership and IT careers. Prior to joining InformationWeek in July 2013, she served in a number of roles at CIO magazine and CIO.com, most recently as senior ... View Full Bio

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Henrisha
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Henrisha,
User Rank: Strategist
8/27/2014 | 2:16:01 PM
Re: Facebook the invader
An article about Facebook's Messenger app recently went viral. It was about the permissions the app requests when you install it. It's a wake up call because Facebook Messenger isn't the only app that requests all of these.
Henrisha
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Henrisha,
User Rank: Strategist
8/27/2014 | 2:15:21 PM
Re: Facebook the invader
Once you're in, there's no way out. That seems to be Facebook's motto and a lot of users are (obviously) not liking it. They have gotten increasingly pushy over the past few quarters.
Henrisha
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Henrisha,
User Rank: Strategist
8/27/2014 | 2:14:29 PM
Re: Facebook the invader
Over the years, Facebook has given less and less control to users over their data and what they choose to share with the public. I don't even want to start thinking about what goes on internally.
vnewman2
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vnewman2,
User Rank: Ninja
8/27/2014 | 1:59:02 PM
Re: 1 Don't download junk apps. 2. Don't worry if you have nothing to hide
I don't disagree but do you see how even though it was a perfectly innocent situation, someone found a way to make it seem otherwise - things like this could easily be taken to an extreme by someone with malintent.
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
8/27/2014 | 1:05:13 PM
Re: 1 Don't download junk apps. 2. Don't worry if you have nothing to hide
Sounds like you need a new employer or your employer needs to tell the tin-badge security people to calm down and worry about real problems.
vnewman2
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vnewman2,
User Rank: Ninja
8/27/2014 | 12:56:15 PM
Re: 1 Don't download junk apps. 2. Don't worry if you have nothing to hide
@DHenschen - I totally see where you are coming from - the tricky part comes in when this "innocent" information has been used against you in some way.

To give you an example - we have a key card system at work that logs the staff coming in and out of the parking garage and elevators for "security purposes."

One day I got called into HR asking why my car never left the garage one night and why there was no entry for my card in the morning and two days later.  Basically they were accusing me of not being in the office without saying as much.  This was two weeks later and I couldn't remember the specifics so I had to retrace my footsteps, look at emails, phone calls, etc all to explain that my car starter died so I left my car overnight - hence no exit from the garage recorded.  So I Ubered to work the next morning - hence no swipe into the garage - and I rode the elevator with a coworker from my floor so they swiped their card, hence I didn't swipe mine.  Then I magically got my car to start over lunch so I drove it to the shop to get fixed.  I picked it up over lunch two days later hence the lack of "garage entry" that morning as well.

Honestly, it was such nonsense and left such a bad taste in my mouth that now I park in a pay garage down the block and I ride the elevator to our main floor (which doesn't require a "swipe" because reception is there) and walk up the steps to office.  I'm not going to spend my time having to justify every move I make.  It's not worth the headache for me.  And I think this illustrates how "tracking" gets out of hand on a small scale - you just never know how someone is going to "spin" information like that and you have to defend yourself like a criminal.
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
8/27/2014 | 12:24:48 PM
1 Don't download junk apps. 2. Don't worry if you have nothing to hide
Two thoughts on all this privacy paranoia: 1. You have to figure that free apps have to be making money somehow. I feel better about paying a small fee for an app that provides real value. 2. Even if it's a free app like Facebook, etc., I'm not too worried about anybody finding out "secrets" like I stopped at a gas station or supermarket, visited a museum or went to a park. Unless you have plans to join ISIS, cheat on your spouse, buy contraband, or engage in some other questionable activity, I wouldn't worry about it. What am I missing?
nomii
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nomii,
User Rank: Ninja
8/27/2014 | 11:52:48 AM
Re: Facebook the invader
@SachinEE I agree with you that we need to find it how and where our info is being shared. You must have heard the conspiracy of NASA and PRISM. I believe this might be one aspect from where these intelligence gathering is being done to trace the required target. But in the bargain demolishing all ethicality and decency and abiding laws of privacy violation.
nomii
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nomii,
User Rank: Ninja
8/27/2014 | 11:49:00 AM
Re: Facebook the invader
@SachinEE i agree with you on thsia nd feels that its basically a violation of one privacy. I belive that most of us give permission to these sites ourselves without our knowledge before joining. I remember that few years back I used to just click accept before going through the terms and condidtion laid out by any site for joining. Most of these sites are keeping their bases covered to avaoid any legal action.
pcharles09
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pcharles09,
User Rank: Moderator
8/27/2014 | 12:15:13 AM
Re: Facebook the invader
@vnewman,

That seems like how FB would make a new feature work. I guess they figure they already have enough of your consent, so they could entend it further without giving you an opt-out.
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