Location tracking can be a genuinely useful tool. On your phone, it can help to find services close by, or locate the device if you lose it.
On a computer, location tracking could help a website deliver more relevant content based on where you live.
But how many people have access to this location data? And is it really wise to allow the devices we carry to constantly know where we are?
Who’s Following You?
Accuweather got into hot water in 2017 when it admitted that it sells location data to third party companies.
Now, most of the people that use Accuweather probably assumed that the app was just recording their location in order to deliver an accurate forecast.
But here’s the thing: Accuweather was collecting data even if permission wasn’t granted.
The Pros and Cons of Sharing Location
Location tracking can also be used to deliver ads. Many people don’t mind this kind of tracking, but it really depends on your attitude to advertising, and whether you feel it’s creepy to be marketed to in this way.
The other risk is obviously the loss of control of your own data. Google might track your location though your phone, but is Google really the only company that can see that data? What happens if Google sells of an arm of the company, and your data goes with it?
Sure, this would be ‘anonymous’ data. But if your phone spends all night in a particular house on a particular street, it’d be pretty easy to figure out who lives there, and narrow down the owner of that data to a handful of people.
Location tracking isn’t compulsory. There are some benefits, but there are privacy risks. The trick is to use location tracking sparingly, and only when you’re aware of where those location markers are being stored — and how to delete them.