Do you own one of those nifty smart phones with many functions and apps? Are you aware your phone could be putting your location out there for the world to see? In this article we will discuss smart phone geolocation services and how to prevent your location from being made public.
The advanced technology in our smart phones enables many useful apps and functions. Unfortunately, for those who aren’t experienced with how these apps and functions work, they may also present security concerns. One function built into most smart phones is geolocation. Wikipedia defines geolocation as, “The identification of the real-world geographic location of an object, such as a radar, mobile phone or an internet -connected computer terminal.” According to an article at PCworld.com, geolocation reports your location to others and associates places of interest, such as restaurants and retail stores, with your location. This function can be very useful but it must be used with some caution.
How does your phone determine your location? The primary method is GPS (global positioning system). Most smart phones have a chip that tracks GPS satellites to determine your location very accurately. When GPS satellites are not available, the phone can use cell towers to triangulate the position of the device with decent accuracy. Many smart phones can also use a combination of the two, this is called assisted GPS. Some phones can also use wi-fi networks to determine location.
Why is this function built into smart phones? There are many uses for geolocation. It can be used to view your location on an overlay of a map. Another use is marking the location where pictures taken on your smart phone were shot. The location can be added to the data of the picture file so you can see where the picture was taken by examining the file data. Unfortunately, this allows anyone viewing your photo in a public photo album to see the same information. This creates a security concern.
How can you prevent your location information from being seen by others? Most smart phones have settings that can prevent your location from being attached to picture files or posted to websites. The websites themselves may allow you to decide who sees the information. Many software makers also include settings to help you keep your location private. You can find instructions for adjusting your phone’s settings in the user manual. You may also be able to get help with your settings by calling the phone manufacturer’s customer service or technical support phone number. Geolocation can be a very useful and safe function if you take some easy steps to prevent your location from being seen by the general public.
Community Service Officer John Thomas is a long time resident of Temecula and is a Crime Prevention Officer with the Temecula Police Department Crime Prevention Unit. He can be reached at (951) 506-5132.