Smartphones knowing our exact location isn’t new; chances are you’ve already downloaded an app that wants your location data. And while that’s fine, many apps don’t need to know your location but have it anyways. Here’s how you can stop apps like Instagram from tracking your precise location on your iPhone or Android.
A viral image going around Instagram and TikTok alerts users to disable the “precise location” setting on their iPhone for select apps, and it’s only gaining steam. So, what is this precise location feature, what does it do, and how can you turn it off? Read on for all the details.
The precise location feature was first introduced on iOS as a system-level setting way back in 2020. It arrived on iOS 14 for the iPhone, iPad, and watchOS 7. Additionally, Google added a similar system-wide location setting with Android 12 in 2021.
Essentially, apps already had your precise location. Only now, Google and Apple are letting users choose to enable or disable it.
For what it’s worth, both iPhone and Android already offer multiple location control features, including the option to grant apps access to your location once or only while a specific app is actively in use. The “precise location” toggle adds to that and gives users additional peace of mind.
Most phones and apps use GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or all three to pin down your location. However, the precise location feature will let you control if an app knows your exact whereabouts or only has access to approximate location data.
We’re talking about apps like Instagram, Facebook, Google Maps, Uber, TikTok, Postmates, and others. Map and navigation apps need accurate data, but it’s up to you to decide if the others deserve that information.
Now that you know about the precise location option on iPhone, you probably want to disable it on certain apps. With iPhone, there are two different ways to access this privacy tool.
For apps like Instagram, Facebook, or anything else you already use frequently (that’s not a newly downloaded app), you’ll have to head into settings and turn it off for each application.
Navigate to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > tap on the app, and its Location settings > scroll down and tap the Precise Location toggle to switch it off. You can see examples in the screenshot gallery above.
Next, hit back and return to the “Location Services” app list and repeat the process for any other app you’d rather not share your exact location with. As a reminder, you’ll only see this option if the application already has access to your location.
Or, when you open an app for the first time, you’ll get a popup asking you to grant it access to location information. From here, it’ll let you choose to “Allow Once,” “Allow While Using the App,” or “Don’t Allow.” When you get that popup for the first time, tap the “Precise” button near the middle left of the prompt to disable precise location data.
The process is nearly the same for Android, only with slightly different wording. You can quickly access this menu on Pixel devices in the “Privacy dashboard.” On Android devices, go to Settings > Location > App permissions > find and tap on the app you’d like to change > and tap the Precise Location toggle and switch it off. You can see examples in the screenshot gallery above.
Next, hit back and return to the list of apps, and repeat the steps on any other apps that you want to revoke access to your information.
As a reminder, you’ll only see this option if the application already has access to your location. If not, it won’t have the precise location toggle.
It’s important to mention that you’ll probably want to leave the precise location option enabled for specific apps or features on your device. A good example is a ride-sharing app like Uber, which needs pinpoint accuracy to send a driver to your location. The same goes for Apple or Google Maps, Waze, and other navigation services.
Additionally, you’ll want to keep this feature enabled on something like wearOS and other default apps many people use to track phones and accessories. If you disable all location data, you won’t be able to use Find My Phone type apps to retrieve a lost or stolen device.
Remember that apps won’t have your exact information when you “check-in” on Facebook or add your location to an Instagram story once you do this. However, it should still be close enough to tag a restaurant, monument, or other spots along your travels.
If you’re concerned about apps knowing your every move, disabling the precise location on your iPhone or Android only takes a few seconds. It’s that simple.