How to stop Maps apps from tracking your location on your phone

Increase privacy when using maps apps on iPhone or Android phones

Map of Europe with pins showing locations

It depends on which Maps app is on your phone, how it is used and settings, but you may be giving too much information about your location and the places you visit. Use maps privately.

Privacy is a big deal these days, mostly because of the lack of it and it seems that everything we do on our phones and our computers is being monitored, tracked and recorded by someone. It is like you can’t do anything without someone watching.

Are maps apps tracking you on your phone? They do need to know your location so they can show it on a map and work out the best route from where you are to where you want to go. They also use it to show you places of interest, stores, fuel or electric vehicle charging points nearby.

It would be awkward if you had to manually set your current location before using any of these features in a maps app. You may know where you live and can find it on a map, but what if you are in an unfamiliar city on a holiday or business trip. You might not be able to find the exact street you are on very easily.

Maps apps use location services like GPS and they know exactly where you are and the places you have visited. Your location history is stored. Do you trust the maps maker with this information or does it worry you that they know so much about you? What can you do about it?

Using a VPN is another great way to increase privacy. Here are the VPNs I recommend.

Google Maps incognito mode

Google Maps is one of the most popular maps apps and the level of detail in the maps is excellent. It is the one that all others try to beat, but how good is the privacy? Not very. Your maps activity and the locations you visit are stored in your Google account and it builds up into quite a detailed activity history. You can see where you were on specific dates and more.

If you are concerned about privacy and do not want your activity and locations tracked, there is a new incognito mode in Google Maps that is similar to the incognito mode in Chrome web browser.

Google Maps incognito mode on the iPhone
Go incognito in Google Maps with this menu

Tap your account picture in the top right corner of the screen in Google Maps and a menu is displayed. Press Turn on Incognito mode. When it is enabled, the bar at the top of the screen is black and it tells you that incognito mode is on. Your account picture is replaced with an incognito mode picture.

Google Maps incognito mode on the iPhone
Google Maps incognito mode is more private

While in Google Maps incognito mode, Maps does not save your browsing or search history to your Google account. It does not send you notifications. It does not update your location history or shared location. It does not use your activity to personalize Maps.

Some features are not available in incognito mode, although they are not important ones. For example, search completion suggestions, your stored places, your commute details and so on.

Google Maps is available on Android phones and iPhones, and incognito mode is available on both. You can use it all the time or just when you want a bit of extra privacy and don’t want your location or searches saved.

New Apple Maps

A new version of Apple Maps is rolling out in the US and not only does it offer better mapps than the previous version, it is also focused on privacy too. Apple claims to have made the new Maps app with privacy at its core.

“We set out to create the best and most private maps app on the planet.” (source)

Eddy Cue

The company says that no sign-in is required and it does not connect to your Apple ID. It does a lot of processing on the device, the iPhone, like working out departure times for appointments. Data collected by Apple Maps is associated with random identifiers.

A precise location is obscured by converting it to a less precise one after 24 hours on Apple’s servers. It does not store your history of what you have searched for or where you have been. Apple calls the process Fuzzing.

Currently Apple Maps is for US users only, but sooner or later it will eventually be available to other parts of the world, but it may take some time.

Apple Maps privacy settings on the iPhone
Turn off these two switches for Apple Maps privacy

Although Apple Maps has many privacy features, you still might be sharing too much. Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services. For even greater privacy

  • Turn off Significant Locations
  • Turn off Improve Maps

Whether you use Google Maps or Apple Maps, privacy can be increased if it at all worries you that someone may be tracking your activities.

More privacy features on RAWinfopages

Featured Image by TheAndrasBarta from Pixabay

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