Manage location settings to block spying and social media ads

If you’re uncomfortable with social media apps tracking your movements, learn how to stop them from using your iPhone’s built-in location services.

Or if you’re moving to a different city or job, it can be annoying to see travel suggestions to the wrong place. Resetting your location history starts from scratch.

If you are traveling to a country with an authoritarian government, e.g everyone taking part in this year’s Olympic Games been, deleting your phone’s location history is a safe bet.

These movements can also protect you from shady data brokers who spy on and sell your movements.

Here’s how to do it.

Here’s how to see (and turn off) your location history on iPhone

Apple stores your location history on iPhone for a variety of functions. Photos uses your location data to find collections of pictures and videos taken at home and on vacation or travel to create moments. Siri and Reminders use your location history to let you know “when I get home”. Maps uses patterns in your location data so it can alert you how long it takes to get to work or business.

You may wish to delete this information from time to time.

Remember that Apple protects your location data. All location tracking and processing for these features is done on your iPhone and is end-to-end encrypted. You can read all about how Apple treats your location data in detail by reading theirs Location Services Privacy Whitepaper.

Protect your movements from shady data brokers

That’s not to say other apps you’ve installed won’t be tracking you. Every time you upload a photo or video to social media, the location information in the photo creates a map of the places you visit. Shady third party developers – and even The Weather Channel – have been accused of selling location data to advertisers. This article from the New York Times is a good introduction to the topic. Since its release, Apple has cracked down on developers who abuse the iPhone’s built-in advertising ID system, but there is still a workaround developers can use.

How to clear your location history

You can see all the places your iPhone thinks are important, where you’ve been recently, clear history, and turn off location features in Settings.

View your location history under Important Locations in Settings.
Screenshot: D.Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

To view your location history, go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services (at the bottom) > Significant locations. You’ll need to authenticate with your passcode, Face ID, or Touch ID to open this final page.

Switch off Major Locations to disable this feature.

The summary shows you how many times you have been recorded in an important place and how much history it has.

The map shows important places you have visited in the last day. Tap a location to preview it on the map.

Beat delete history to delete the recordings of the last months. This will not stop tracking your important locations as long as this feature is still enabled above.

How to disable location tracking

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It’s a good idea to regularly review which apps can see your location and when.
Screenshot: D. Griffin Jones / Cult of Mac

go back to system services to turn off other features of iPhone that use your location. Personally, I leave all of these enabled except for location-based suggestions. The arrows next to the switches indicate whether the service only sees your location under certain conditions (blank), whether the service has recently used your location (purple), or whether the service has checked your location within the last 24 hours (grey).

go back to location services to see which third-party apps have access to your location and when. Options include Never, Ask Next Time, When Sharing, When Using App, and Always. I recommend setting social media apps to Never and using Always for weather only.

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