How to stop your iPhone from tracking your location

The New York Times published a story on Thursday about how lots of companies are able to track your location data and even identify people when that information is supposed to be anonymous.

Apple’s latest iPhone software, iOS 13, helps protect you more than ever before, and lets you know which apps are tracking your location and when. But your iPhone is still tracking everywhere you go, often by default.

For example, there’s a System Services page in iOS that shows 20 different ways your iPhone tracks your location. It does so for a variety of legitimate reasons, but most people probably don’t know this page even exists.

Your iPhone uses your location for HomeKit to identify if you’re away or near home — one way it can automatically turn on your lights when you get home or turn them off when you leave, for example. There’s also a setting to set the time zone automatically based on your location, or to make sure it’s searching for the right cellular networks. Another setting can be turned on to share your location with other people, like in the “Find My” app.

But there are a few places where you might not want your iPhone to track you at all. Apple tracks your location for “Location-Based Apple Ads,” for example. It can use your location for “Location-Based alerts,” or to let you know about merchants where you used Apple Pay to buy something.

More importantly, there’s an entire section called “Significant Locations” where Apple stores the places you go frequently — like work, home, or anywhere you’ve traveled. Apple uses this information for some legitimate purposes, too, like improving “Photo memories” so it can send you recaps of pictures you’ve taken in certain places. It can also improve your results in Maps, Calendar and other apps. These are all “end-to-end encrypted,” which means the information is scrambled on your phone, and “cannot be read by Apple,” according to the settings page.

But most of my colleagues who saw this for the first time didn’t like it, even if Apple does keep the location data private, largely because they didn’t know this area existed. So let’s change that.

Here’s how to see how your iPhone is tracking your location and how to manage what it tracks.

  • Open Settings on your iPhone.
  • Tap “Privacy.”
  • Choose “Location Services.”
  • Scroll to the bottom and select “System Services.”