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How do they know my location?

Published onJan 10, 2020
How do they know my location?

If you suspect someone is using the location services (GPS and otherwise) of your phone or other device to track you, the first step to take is to turn off “location” in your device settings. Here’s instructions for iPhone, Android, Mac and Safari, Chrome and Google, Windows and Edge.

Note those instructions are worded as if you want to turn them on. Please feel free to turn them off. Even if it’s just because you feel like it! Keeping track of your location drains a phone’s battery faster. Turning off location can help keep you from being tracked by ads, as well. Personally, I only turn on location services when I know I actually need them (following my “if you don’t need it right now, turn it off” rule), like when I need directions to get someplace.

You’ll notice in those settings you often have the option to allow location sharing by application, rather than for the whole device. This can be really helpful in giving you better control over sharing your location. If someone is threatening or stalking you, however, it is best to turn everything off.

Also: don’t “check in.”

Apps which ask you to “check in” (like Yelp and Foursquare) are asking to share your location, and may try to do it even if you have location sharing turned off. This follows my other rule: “if you didn’t ask for it, tell it no.”

“I did all that, and they still know where I am! How?”

If they still seem to be able to track you, it’s time to look for other software on your device which may be broadcasting your location, including iCloud (which may be making a note of where you are logging in from), Google Latitude, Find MY iPhone, and “stalkerware” apps (also known as PUPs or Potentially Unwanted Programs). If you find a stalkerware app on your device, it might be worth backing up your files, wiping your device, and re-installing the operating system.

You may also be able to tell your phone company not to allow others to see where you are. Call your cell phone provider and tell them you do not want them to share location information with anyone, as they may be sharing it even if someone else is not on your plan.

There are also apps which will allow you to broadcast a fake location — like FakeGPSJoystick on Android or a solution using iTools on iPhone—which could be useful if your partner would notice and react violently if you suddenly turned GPS off. These apps could give you the ability to look like you are going about your normal daily routine while you make plans to make yourself safer. However, if your partner is highly technically skilled, they may be able to see past the spoofing.

I think they’re tracking me using my car.

If you suspect your partner is somehow tracking your car, there are a few things to check. Does your car have a built in navigation system? Some of these make it possible to download information about where the car has been.

If you suspect your partner has placed a GPS tracking device on your car, first check the metal inside wheel wells, the edges under the doors, and under the bumpers; these are common places to attach a device. If you don’t find it that way, consider asking for help from your local police (if you trust them. Obviously, this is not a good solution if your partner is on the police force) or a private investigator.

Many thanks to DayOne for their materials on this subject.

For more advice on staying safe in your digital life, see Keep Calm and Log On.

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