Why Some Apps Request your Location and Which Ones Really Need It

It is common for numerous applications to request your location but, have you asked yourself why?

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It is common for numerous applications to request your location but, have you asked yourself why? We break down what kind of apps need this permission to change the configuration of those that do not require it to do their work.

2018 has been the year in which the focus has been incisively placed on the privacy of users, due to the entry into force of international regulations such as the GDPR, large-scale scandals such as the Cambridge Analytica or massive data breaches. Among the innumerable personal data that applications request from Internet users, the location is one of the most outstanding. However, do all applications need to know where we are?

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The New York Times recently published an explosive interactive report that details the huge number of applications that have your location data, using them to send segmented advertising. Before going to the configuration of your phone and deactivating the location data for each application, you must know what applications do need the location services enabled to work and which ones do not.

What categories of applications need to know your location

  • Climate: Meteorological applications request this data to be able to accurately provide the forecast for your geographic area, something especially relevant in the case of those with a hyperlocal nature.
  • Maps and trips: Navigation applications like Google Mpas require your location to get detailed directions and help you find nearby places. In addition, the applications to share trips – like Uber and Lyft- need that your geolocation is activated so that the drivers know where to go to look for you.
  • Health and fitness: Running apps like Runtastic and other online sports and exercise platforms demand your location to track your careers, including distance and time.
  • Social: Social network applications like Instagram or Facebook request your location if you want to “register” or tag yourself in a specific place, something that experts disapprove of especially when you’re on vacation.
  • Smarthome: The applications related to the smart home use this information so that the connected devices of your house – like the light, the heating or certain appliances – turn on and off automatically when you arrive or leave home.
  • Online shopping: Many retail store applications will ask for your location for simple things, such as easily finding the location closest to you to pick up an order or search for associated stores.
  • Camera: This type of apps can also use the data of your location, mainly to insert the location in the EXIF ​​data in the photos.
  • Games: very few games will require your location, but some like the once viral Pokemon Go depend a lot on this dat.
  • Streaming: Most live broadcast television applications will need to know where you are to confirm regional power outages or carry out certain functions, especially for sports broadcast applications.

Technically, very few applications need your location in a strict manner. Most of the time it’s just an additional convenience, bypassing possible manual steps like entering your zip code instead of using your smartphone’s GPS – something that ecommerce or weather apps do. Obviously, other applications such as navigation would be useless if you disable your location. Without it, you could not travel with Google Maps or track your careers with Runtastic.

For those applications where you can not completely disable location services, you can adjust the settings so that the app only collects your location data when it is open and running. This will limit the amount of location data at least in some way.

Not even deactivating the location or changing the permissions are safe: the services can use your IP address to obtain your location or your postal code. If you enter your city to know, for example, the weather forecast, the platform knows your geographical area, although with less precision than GPS.


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