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Friday, December 14, 2018

Why Do So Many Apps Ask For Your Location, and Which Ones Really Need It?

When it comes to smartphone privacy concerns, location data is usually at the top of the list. The thing is, so many apps ask for your location now that we never really stop to think why they ask in the first place.

A bombshell report was recently published by The New York Times detailing just how much location data apps have on you (it’s more than you might think), and how they use that data to make money from targeted advertisements. This concept is nothing new and is already widely known, but the report goes into much greater detail than what we’ve seen before.

RELATED: Do You Realize How Much You Share Your Location?

But before you hectically jump into your phone’s settings and turn off location data for every single app, you should know which apps need location services enabled and which ones don’t. And more importantly, you should know why some apps need it in the first place.

Why Apps Ask For Your Location

Depending on the app, there are all sorts of reasons as to why they ask for your location. Some apps need your location to function properly, some enhance the app in convenient ways, and others don’t need your location at all.

Rather than go through every single app in existence and tell you why they might want your location, here’s a general breakdown of various app categories, starting with the more obvious ones:

  • Weather: With your location, weather apps can accurately give you the forecast for your area, especially “hyperlocal” weather apps like Dark Sky.
  • Maps & Travel: Navigation apps require your location for turn-by-turn directions, and most travel apps use your location to help you find cool places nearby. Plus, ride-sharing apps (like Uber and Lyft) use your location, so drivers know where to pick you up.
  • Health & Fitness: Running and other exercising apps use your location to track your runs, including distance and time.
  • Social: Social media apps ask for your location if you want to “check in” or tag yourself at a cool place.
  • Smarthome: Your location is used for geofencing so that devices in your house automatically turn on and off when you leave or get home.
  • Shopping: A lot of retail store apps will ask for your location for simple things, like easily finding a location nearest you.
  • Camera: Interestingly enough, camera apps can use your location data too, mostly to insert the location into the EXIF data in photos.
  • Games: Very few games will require your location, but some (like Pokemon Go) rely heavily on it.
  • Streaming: Most live streaming television apps will need your location to confirm regional blackouts and certain features, especially for sports streaming apps.

Which Apps Need Your Location, and Which Ones Don’t?

So now that you mostly know why apps ask for your location, it’s time to get to the meat of the matter and ask ourselves which apps need our locations and which ones don’t.

Read the remaining 14 paragraphs

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