What it Means When an App Requires Your Location

Do you remember a time when apps like Foursquare and later Swarm were all the rage? We checked in to locations and earned points and became “mayors” of the places we visited most often. Back then privacy wasn’t much of a concern to the average app user and we gave all kinds of permissions to the apps we were using without giving it a second thought. Within a couple of years, things changed. We started taking online privacy much more seriously and started thinking about the implications our shared data can have. This is a valid point why some users might be concerned when an app requests to know their location. What does it mean? Using a combination of GPS satellites, IP address and cell phone towers, apps (and people, for that matter) can easily pinpoint your location. When you use an app you’ve granted location access to, the app can access your location and find several practical uses for this information. Most of the apps only use the location information so that they can provide the user a better experience and don’t even use it for any marketing at all. In fact, most apps don’t use the data for remarketing, only to improve the user experience. How does this work? Let’s explain with some practical examples:

  • Being able to identify which restaurant was nearer to you when you’re ordering your food. If it’s a chain of restaurants we want to find the closest one! That way the delivery charge will be kept to a minimum and your food will arrive hot.
  • Giving advice on your exact location. If you’re on your way to an event and you’re using an event app, as soon as you get off the tube which might be in an unfamiliar city, you get accurate directions straight to your destination.
  • If you’re using a retail app that provides an in- store loyalty rewards program, the app can tell if you’re in the store and then reward you a point or a coupon.
  • Weather apps need to know your location to let you know that rain storm is coming.

If you opt to block location services you’ll find certain parts of apps (named above) don’t work but you could re-enable them in the setting when you want them specifically to know your location. Apple is really good now and will periodically remind you that an app is using your location, like shown in the photo below: So the question is – are you worried an app knows your exact location? If this is not an issue for you, you’ll get a better user experience (like the ones mentioned above). You have the option to change the app permissions for each app in your smartphone, including the location permissions, so it really is up to your personal preferences.


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