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Sharing Your Location Online

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There are a growing number of location-based apps available for smartphone and other devices, making it easy to show your friends and family where you are and what you’re doing. Smartphones have a built-in feature which uses GPS and cell tower locations to pinpoint your approximate location. This allows you to post your location online through social networking sites or apps and is also used by location-based services such as maps. The location data can also be embedded in photos you take on your smartphone. 

What are the risks of using location services? 
Some online services that track your location could be used for spying, stalking or theft. If your location-sharing messages are linked to social networks, there is no limit to who might know where you are and when you’re not at home. 

Should children be allowed to use location services? 
Young children do not need to share their location with anybody. Check the Location settings on your child’s mobile device from time to time, including their tablet or iPod. If your teens are using location services, make sure they know safe online practices, and talk to them about privacy settings. 

How can I use location services more safely? 

  • Go to the Location Services settings in your phone and look at the list of apps that require your current location. Ask yourself why each of these apps would need a geographical location. If you can’t think of a good reason, turn it off. 
  • Limit who can see your location. Check that the online service doesn’t show your details to those nearby who you might not know. For example, some apps will show even non-friends where you are, if you have both checked into the same place. 
  • Pay attention to where and when you check in. If you are alone, is it safe to check in? If you check in at your child’s school or a friend’s house, would checking in put other people at risk or compromise their privacy? 

When should I keep location services turned on? 
Some apps require a location to function and to be useful. For example, the Google Maps app would need your location in order to give you accurate directions. Weather apps would also need your current location to give you a forecast.