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Why Location-Based Services are Dangerous

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By Published On: June 14, 20190 Comments

Location-based services – there are hundreds out there. In fact, it is a safe bet that there is more than one app on your mobile device that is utilising your location and you may not even realise it.

When you download an app and it asks for permission to acquire your location, do you ever stop to ask yourself, “Why does this app need to know where I am?” How about, “What are the risks of allowing my location to be acquired by my mobile applications?”

If you aren’t using a trusted VPN service you might need to seriously consider the consequences of using these applications. Let’s take a look at location-based services and how exactly they compromise our safety.

What are Location-Based Services?

Location-based services are applications that allow the use of geo-tagging during use. This means the application uses Global Position Systems or IP addresses to pinpoint a user’s location for sharing and/or storing. You often see this used with social media platforms that recognise when you are at a landmark and ask you to share with your friends. The popular ‘check-in’ feature that is implemented through multiple platforms is a prime example of a location-based service.

But even outside of social media platforms there are dozens of apps that use location-based services. Here are a few examples:

Weather Apps:

Some Weather apps, like Dark Sky, obtain your location to provide you with specific and personally-catered forecasts.

Business Search Platforms:

Services such as Foursquare use your location to provide you with information about nearby businesses and landmarks.

Games:

The most popular game to use location-based services is the Pokémon Go. This game uses your location to provide you with rewards, determine your proximity to other players, and much more.

Delivery Apps:

Apps like UberEats, Deliveroo, and many more provide ultimate convenience by connecting users with nearby drivers who can shop and deliver items to a person’s front door.

Other Apps:

There are many other types of apps that use location-based services. Retailers like Target, ride services like Uber, and many other applications are using these services to enhance their business model.

So, if these companies are using your location to improve their services, what’s the problem? Well, here are five dangers of using apps with location-based services:

Abuse of Stored Data

When these applications acquire your location they often store that information for future reference. Though this may translate to quick and convenient service in the future, it also means that a security breach on the end of the company will end in your physical location being shared with criminals!

Stalking

We may not like to think about it, but stalkers have, and will, use location-based services to try and locate victims. This issue came to the limelight when Snapchat introduced its real-time map feature, which allowed users to see the current location of other users on their friends’ list. This meant that bullies and stalkers needed only find a way onto their victim’s friends list to know where they were at all times.

Tempting Burglars

It has been a longtime piece of advice to not brag to people you know that you are going on vacation, otherwise, you might get robbed. Nowadays, dubious individuals can see when you aren’t home when you are away from your hotel room when aren’t near your car… they essentially have your daily schedule in their hands.

Discrimination

One issue with publicising your location is the ability for others to discriminate against you based on your neighbourhood. Neighbourhood-based discrimination is a real thing, especially in the workplace. It is an unfortunate truth that some people look at where a person lives and associates them with any negative stereotypes about that location.

Though discriminating against a job candidate based on such things is a big no-no, employers can now find this information discreetly and find other excuses to pass up on an applicant.

Security Breach for Domestic Abuse Victims

One of the more specific, yet unfortunately frequent, dangers of location-based services is the inability to seek safety in a domestic abuse situation. When a domestic abuse victim seeks out a shelter it is often a priority for workers to remove the batteries from the victim’s phone. This is because abusers can use the information shared to the applications on the victim’s phone to locate the shelter.

This is not only incredibly dangerous for the victim, but for all of the other victims at the shelter as well. Ultimately, these services can take places that need to be private and secret and put their location out for the world to find.

How to Protect Yourself

The sheer number of applications that use GPS or IP tracking to find your location can be staggering. It can be difficult to remember to search through the requested permissions for each app to adjust privileges. Luckily, there are a few ways to ensure your privacy that are far easier.

1.    If you are an Apple user, you can turn off location-based service permissions in Settings>Privacy>Location Services.

2.    Check privacy settings on social media sites.

3.    Use a VPN for guaranteed protection against location tracking and any other form of digital privacy infringement.

Bottom Line

Location-based services can make our lives easier. It is nice when our pizza delivery app knows where we live and what specials are in our area, but at the end of the day, the benefits simply don’t outweigh the risks. This is why it is so important to protect ourselves. With a VPN you can enjoy true privacy while online and prevent any app, company, or website from accessing your location through any means, which in turn makes the internet a safer place to be.

Alex Mitchell is an experienced cybersecurity enthusiast from VPNpro who has a wealth of knowledge in the fight against hackers, malware, ransomware data leaks and breaches. His skills include testing VPNs, antivirus software, different proxies to find the most effective ways to improve online protection and privacy for users.

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About the Author: Power Retail

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