Tech Tip: Staying Safe on Your GPS Enabled Device
Guest post by Cassie Phillips
Enabling location settings on any device can be somewhat risky. Though GPS navigation is extremely convenient, you may be putting your privacy at risk whenever you use it. Another issue is that if you’re using a smartphone, you could forget to disable your location settings afterwards.
By leaving your location settings turned on, you could actually be giving away your personal information over social media without your knowledge, or even to apps. For example, if you post from Facebook while your settings are on, your post could include your location. If you have your Facebook profile set to public, everyone now has access to that information.
What’s worse is that some websites and apps can actually be pinpointing your location right down to the exact address. You may think this is fine since companies commonly ask for your home address when you sign up for accounts anyways, but the truth is, they could be tracking you. Companies have been caught keeping a whole lot of information about their customers without their knowledge and even selling it off.
They could of course also turn the information they receive over to law enforcement and government agencies if necessary. This is why it’s important to take a look at the fine print before you agree to any Terms of Service agreements. Somewhat creepier is that they might even be tracking your habits in order to figure out where you commonly visit or shop.
Most of these tactics are used primarily for marketing, but there’s still something rather unnerving about strangers knowing where you are all hours of the day. Of course, complete avoidance of enabling GPS on your device is the best way to prevent the tracking of your location, but if you definitely cannot go without it, consider using some of these tips to stay safe.
Read App Permissions
Apps commonly ask for your location, which can sometimes be necessary depending on the purpose of the app you’re downloading. Other times it might be just a ploy to get ahold of some of your personal information. As previously mentioned, some companies do sell these details or use them for marketing.
Keep that in mind whenever you’re downloading or using a new app. Carefully read over the user permissions before accepting them. If something seems suspicious, it’s best to avoid using or keeping the app on your device.
Of course, it’s also wise to research the company a bit if you can. A simple Google search will reveal a list of some of the companies who are known for obtaining and selling off the personal information of their customers. You might also see some negative reviews on the app if it has been found to be untrustworthy.
Hide Your Location
Hiding your location isn’t going to help when you need to use GPS navigation, but for when you aren’t figuring out how to get to your next destination, you might want to consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to hide your location. VPNs can be useful any time you’re online, so not only will they help you avoid being tracked, but they will also protect you while you browse the internet.
A VPN is a remote server that you route your internet traffic through. Since the remote server is encrypted and has its own IP address, no one will be able to tell where you are while you’re using it. VPN services offer several different locations for you to choose from too, some of which are outside of your own country.
This can even unblock websites that can only be accessed by those residing in a specific location. As a bonus, a VPN also protects you from malware and hackers. Since many GPS-enabled devices are mobile, it’s likely that you’ll be using them on public WiFi every now and then, which is a common access point for hackers who sometimes spy on your activities.
According to Secure Thoughts, it’s not uncommon for people to have their personal information intercepted on public WiFi networks. Avoiding public WiFi definitely isn’t an option for most, but luckily a VPN will keep you protected no matter where you connect to the internet. Overall, it’s one of the best options for hiding your location and keeping your information protected online.
Don’t Always Share
Sometimes websites might ask for you to share your location with them while you’re online. If you’re concerned about your privacy, it’s definitely a good idea to opt out of sharing this information with them. It’s wise to only share what’s necessary.
Speaking of websites, a large issue with sharing your location online is that sometimes malicious advertisements can be tailored to appear as though they are legitimate by utilizing your location details. For example, have you ever noticed an advertisement that mentioned a product that you were just searching for the other day? What about one that mentions your town or state?
Those advertisements are specifically targeted at you based on the information you inadvertently gave away while browsing the web. Unfortunately, there aren’t any requirements saying that websites cannot access this information, so the next best thing is just not to give it to them!
The best solution to do that is to use a VPN whenever possible, but you may also want to consider using a security service, such as Blur, which helps you keep a bit more of your information to yourself. With Blur, you can block tracking efforts made by websites and mask your email addresses and credit cards, so you won’t have to give them to companies online (other than Blur of course).
Staying Safe Online
Protecting your privacy online can sometimes be tricky, especially if you still want to take advantage of GPS navigation on your device or even use apps that require you to share your location. When it comes to your privacy, the best thing to do is to avoid enabling GPS altogether. However, if you’re somewhat attached to some of your apps, this may not be an option.
The next best thing is to always disable GPS whenever you’re done using the apps that require it. You can also trick those less important apps into believing you’re elsewhere with the use of a VPN, which might be a good idea if you’re particularly concerned with sharing your location. Overall, staying safe online is really up to you, but the less you share, the better!
For more information on how to stay safe and secure online, check out securethoughts.com.