Privacy tip #4
Turn off location. Part 1
Convenience is often the enemy of privacy, with the internet and our devices, but location services
are a feature that can allow many exploits.
A large industry has grown around location data collection, which is covert and unregulated. Our location data is bought and sold many times between companies and corporations, either to trade with or capitalize on. Facebook has recently been in the news for developing patents that outline methods to track user movements and predict where and when users will be, through location services.
Many thanks to yoneda
(email@example.com) for flagging this story up.
You can read the story's text on yoneda's page (without the original site’s excessive tracking and fingerprinting) on the federation here:FaceBook issues patents on methods to track user movements through location services.
If online vendors know our exact location, they will only offer us local deals, perhaps more expensive than other territories, especially if they know how much we paid before. If facebook users don’t enable privacy settings in the ‘maps’ section of their account, for instance, their movements are plotted for all the public to see – great for burglars, robbers and rapists!
The levels of privacy also change in different territories. ISPs in the US are allowed to sell the data of their users to ‘marketing’ companies, while European ISPs are not. In fact, European Union countries allow users the legal right to request a copy of their data from companies that take it – and they can even delete it if they wish.
Here’s a link to the British Information Commissioner
, which explains how EU citizens can protect themselves.Above link details
This site sets 3 long-term
session cookies we can delete. It uses a LOW number of third party embeds (4
) and 1
tracker company (Google) is forbidden from setting cookies. Although the site uses the Google Analytics
data collection tool, the privacy extension is enabled so the Big G only gets anonymized IPs
Here's a link to the NYT's take on data thievesNew York Times – What data tracking companies have on youAbove link details
This site sets 14
long-term and 7
short-term cookies we can delete. It uses a MEDIUM
number of third party embeds (45
) that set 3
short-term and 16
long-term cookies. 5
tracker companies set 8
trackers, Ublock Origin blocked 5
. It uses Google Analytics without
the privacy extension enabled. =:~0
Turning location services off, limits the ability to be identified and tracked. With mobiles though, our phone’s internet providers/carriers can still identify our location through our device’s sim card when we pass their telephone masts. Some law enforcement departments can track a device if we register it with them (or they register it themselves).
To be truly private and restrict all the above possibilities, some hackers and security buffs I’ve interviewed actually rip out the aerial (and desolder microphones) from their devices to avoid tracking.
We don’t have to go that far, but it seems pointless to have location turned on for a desktop or a laptop that doesn’t go anywhere.
Here are many ways to turn off location services if we want to. Part 1
will look at operating systems.WARNING:
Without location services you cannot track your device if it is lost or stolen. You cannot plot your position on a map service, social network or game like Pokemon Go. You cannot ask Alexa or Siri where the local Pizza place is, or what the weather will be like in your vicinity. You will have to look it up or look out of the window. You can still use a non-intrusive online map service like OPENSTREETMAP by typing in location details and zip/postcodes. Or you can buy an actual book of maps called an atlas. Slower but safer.
Much safer than W10 in this regard, W7 used a system of sensors we could simply turn off.
1. Click START menu.
2. Enter SENSOR in the search box.
3. Select ENABLE LOCATION AND OTHER SENSORS’ in the list.
Hopefully, there are no sensors enabled, but if there are, then uncheck the box beside each sensor and click APPLY – depending on what you want to block.
Might be worth clicking VIEW LOCATION ACTIVITY to see what’s been exposed in the past.Windows 8
- Try and find CONTROL PANEL
- Enter SENSOR in the search box
- Select CHANGE LOCATION SETTINGS
- Using ADMINISTRATOR PRIVILEGES, choose whether to turn on location sensing for individual apps.
The Settings app on Windows 10 is the place to go here as M$ have incorporated so much spyware into their last operating system, external programs, like the Edge browser, have location settings removed. One must avoid the legs of the octopus and go for its head.
1. Click the SETTINGS app in W10
2. Click PRIVACY
3. Click LOCATION
4. Scroll down to the CHOOSE APPS THAT CAN USE YOUR PRECISE LOCATION section and start disabling!
iOS apps sometime mention how they use location data in their privacy settings, but they’re usually vague on whether the data will be shared or sold on. Apple insists its developers give users the choice to turn each app’s location settings off, which is nice. We can also disable ALL location services entirely by toggling the LOCATION SERVICES setting to off.Linux
Turn off the geolocation features of your desktop (GNOME)
1. Open the ACTIVITIES overview.
2. Click on PRIVACY to open the panel.
3. Set the LOCATION SERVICES switch to OFF.If you have other location tweaks, please share.
Next time, I'll cover Location Services in browsers and phones.