How Can Someone Know Your Location on an iPhone?

By Ashley Poland

Map and navigation apps are the most common uses for location services.
i Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Many smartphone users don't give location services a second thought; according to ISACA, 58 percent of users leave location services turned on when they use their phone. With so many apps collecting and displaying location information, it's easy for users to see where you and your iPhone have been. By being aware of how apps collect your information, you can use your iPhone safely without telling the world where you're going.

Location Services in iOS

The iPhone uses "Location Services" to refer to the blanket of GPS, Wi-Fi and cellular-based location collection. With location services turned on, your iPhone basically tells every app listening where you've been. This isn't always a bad thing -- tools like Find My iPhone depend on location services to locate your iPhone if it's missing or stolen. However, when you have location services turned on, other apps also pick up and broadcast your location information.

Applications and Location Services

Most social apps have location-based tools. For instance, if you have the option turned on, Twitter adds your location to tweets made from the Twitter app on your iPhone. Facebook can also add your location information to posts and to messages you send in the app. Other apps use your location information for non-social reasons; the Maps application uses location information to calculate directions, and Siri uses location services when giving you information about things nearby.

Geo-location in Photos

If you use your iPhone to take pictures and post them online, you're revealing your location in another way: in the geo-location data embedded in the photo. When you take a picture with location services enabled, the iPhone adds your exact GPS location at the time the photo was taken to the EXIF data. This data can then be read -- it's as easy as right-clicking the photo in Explorer and checking the properties of the photo.

Turning Off Location Services

Location services are turned on by default on the iPhone, but you can opt to turn them off if you're concerned about your privacy. Open "Settings" on your iPhone, go to "Privacy" and select "Location Services." You can turn all location services off, or turn off location services for some apps while leaving it on for others. For instance, you can disable location services in Facebook and in the Camera app, while still leaving them turned on for Maps and Siri. If you disable all location services, you will not be able to use apps that depend on them.