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What Apps Need My Location?

Picture of What Apps Need My Location?

5 min read//

Sacrificing a little bit of privacy to use a product or service for free is a compromise most of us are willing to make. If you own a smartphone, you do this every day, whether you realize it or not.

Mobile apps by default demand permissions, and need them in order to function properly. But it gets a bit more sinister than that when you catch an app demanding a permission it absolutely does not need. This occurs because tech companies are after you data, such as location information.

Some Apps Don't Need Your Location: They Just Want Your Data

According to statistics compiled by the marketing firm Playwire, 81 percent of Americans own at least one smartphone. Meanwhile, the average American spends 3.6 hours on their phone every day, and 88 percent of that time is spent within an app.

It is no surprise, then, that in 2020 alone mobile apps brought in around $582 billion in revenue. Yet 96 percent of apps in Google Play and 92 percent of apps in the App Store are free.

This may seem contradictory at a glance, but it really isn't if you take into account that most apps are monetized through data collection and advertising. These are increasingly becoming one and the same—which again brings us to location information, the bread and butter of any decent marketing campaign

In short, for-profit companies want leads that convert, and what better way is there to target potential customers than with highly-localized ads tailored to their needs and interests? That is why location data is so valuable to advertisers, and why apps that don't really need location access still demand it.

But at the end of the day, all apps serve a purpose, and the first question you need to ask yourself before granting location access to one is: Does this app need to know my location in order to fulfill its purpose?

If the answer is "no," don't grant it. If privacy is a concern for you, you can either uninstall and delete the app, or modify permissions.

However, you don't need to go through all of your apps manually to check if they've been granted location access—it's fairly easy to modify location permissions device-wide on both iPhones and Android smartphones.

How to Change Location Permissions on an Android Smartphone

If you've got an Android smartphone, swipe down from the top of the screen and locate the location pin, then tap and hold it. This will launch the location menu, where you will see two tabs: App permissions and Location services.

If you go on App permissions, you'll see your apps are divided into three categories: apps that can access your location all the time, apps that can only access it while in use, and apps that are not allowed to access your location. Tap the app for which you want to change location permissions, and change them.

How to Change Location Permissions on an iPhone

And if you're using an iPhone, navigate to Settings, then scroll down and tap Privacy. If you tap Location Services, a list of apps installed on your iPhone will appear.

To grant or decline location access to a particular application, tap it. Once you do that, you will be able to choose between three different location access settings: Never, Ask Next Time Or When I Share, and While Using the App.

Apps That Need Your Location

Conversely, it would be pointless to use certain apps without letting them have access your location. But what are those apps, and what do they need your location for? Here are five examples.

This is pretty self-explanatory, but you can't use a mapping or navigation app without disclosing your location. What would be the point? The software wouldn't be able to get you from point A to point B without knowing where you are. Of course, you could always download a map of a city and try to reach your destination on your own, but that's far less convenient than simply launching an app and letting it guide you.

2. Weather Apps

Whether you're preparing for a night out or going on a trip, you'll probably want to check your weather app first. Most weather apps nowadays provide information about things like humidity levels and wind speed, as well as extremely detailed hour-by-hour forecasts. But if you want the app to be accurate, send alerts and notifications on time, you need to enable location access. Sounds like a reasonable trade-off.

3. Delivery Apps

It's difficult to imagine how a food delivery app that doesn't ask for location access would even work. If you want food delivered to your door, you obviously need to let the app know where you are. Additionally, by enabling location access, you can follow where the courier is and plan accordingly.

4. Rideshare Apps

Rideshare apps are another obvious example. Whether you're using Uber or Lyft, letting the app know your location is a must. Of course, this makes perfect sense no matter how you look at it, so there's nothing shady about a rideshare app asking for location access.

5. Dating Apps

Most dating apps demand location access. Even if you find one that doesn't, you'll probably have to enter your location manually. Plus, it would be reasonable to assume that most people on dating apps aren't looking for a long-distance relationship, but rather somebody they can actually meet up with in real life.

Manage Location Permissions to Protect Your Privacy

There are apps that legitimately need to know where you are in order to do what they are supposed to. But a navigation app doesn't need access to your contacts, just like delivery apps don't need camera access, dating apps don't need to know about your shopping habits, and rideshare apps have no reason to view your email contacts.

It's pretty much the same with location data. If you want to preserve your privacy, only share your location with apps that actually need it. And to better protect your data, consider strengthening your smartphone's security with privacy-oriented software.

This article appeared in makeuseof (

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