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