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Google, Apple and Snapchat could be tracking your movements – here's everything you need to know

You might not have even noticed

Aatif Sulleyman
Thursday 13 July 2017 14:10 BST
Snap Map has faced widespread criticism
Snap Map has faced widespread criticism

Snapchat has attracted widespread criticism for the rollout of a new feature that lets people track you in real-time, but a number of other extremely popular apps are also keeping tabs on your movements.

Technology giants like Google and Apple could also be quietly tracking you without you even noticing.

While Snapchat’s location-tracking feature is intended to be a fun way for users to find and interact with each other in the real world, the backlash it has faced shows just how conscious and protective of their privacy people are becoming.

Snap Map lets people see exactly where you are in real-time, on an interactive map detailed enough to show not only what street you’re on, but also whereabouts on that street you are.

You can launch it by pinching the Snapchat camera home screen, and choose to share your location with all of your friends, a selection of them, or none of them with ‘Ghost Mode’.

Though it’s enabled by default, there’s every chance that any users curious about the location-sharing feature might switch off Ghost Mode and then forget to turn it on again.

It can be handy for finding a friend in a crowded place when you’ve arranged to meet up, but could potentially also be used by predators and criminals. Children in particular are being urged to keep their real-time location private.

Google has slightly different reasons for collecting your location data.

It uses it for its incredibly useful and popular Maps app, and to inform you about various things it thinks you might be interested in, such as traffic updates or reviews of local restaurants.

Google Maps also has a Share Location feature that you can use to let your friends know exactly where you are at any given time. Unlike Snap Map, however, you can pick and choose who can see you.

Still, we’d recommend only doing this for people you really trust.

The company lets you access all of the location information it has on you through its intriguing Timeline page.

You can use it to find out where you were on a specific day in a specific month in a specific year, and the level of depth its tools offer is astonishing.

You can pause Location History from here, but to go even further, you need to visit My Account. From here, you can switch off Location History altogether, and delete all of the information Google has collected.

If you have a child who uses Android, Google’s Family Link app lets you set certain usage restrictions.

Apple collects the location data of iPhone users for similar reasons, using the information to deliver updates it thinks you might be interested in.

You can see everywhere Apple knows you’ve been in Frequent Locations, which lives in the System Services section of the Privacy menu. From here, you can also opt to stop certain apps from tracking you.

Once again, you can help keep your child safe by restricting their use of Find My Friends, the iPhone feature that lets you share your location with other people.

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