About privacy and Location Services

Learn about services in iOS 8 and iOS 9 that protect your private information, including your location, on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

     

Privacy controls

Privacy controls in iOS 8 and iOS 9 give you control over which apps have access to information stored on your iOS device. For example, you can allow a social-networking app to use your camera, allowing you to take and upload pictures. You can also grant access to your contacts, so a messaging app can find any friends that are already using the same app.

You can modify privacy settings in Settings > Privacy. You can select a type of data from this list to see which apps have asked for permission to use that data. An app won't appear on the list until it asks permission to use your data. You can add or remove permission from any app that has asked for access to data. An app can use your data only if you have given it your permission.

If you allow third-party apps or websites to use your data or your current location, you're subject to their terms, privacy policies, and practices. You should review the terms, privacy policies, and practices of the apps and websites to understand how they use your location and other information. Information Apple collects will be treated in accordance with Apple's Privacy Policy.

How your iOS device uses Location Services

With your permission, Location Services allows apps and websites (including Maps, Camera, Weather, and other apps) to use information from cellular1, Wi-Fi2, Global Positioning System (GPS)3 networks, and Bluetooth4 to determine your approximate location5.

For example, an app might use your location and your recent location searches to help you find nearby coffee shops, theaters, and restaurants. Another app might use your location data to provide a list of popular apps in your immediate area. You must enable Location Services on your device and give your permission to each app or website before it can use your location data. In iOS 8 and iOS 9, if you turn off Location Services and then use Find My iPhone Lost Mode, your device will turn on Location Services for as long as the device is in Lost Mode. When you turn off Lost Mode, Location Services will return to its previous state.

About location precision or accuracy

Depending on your device and available services, Location Services uses a combination of cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS to determine your location. If you're not within a clear line of sight to GPS satellites, your device can determine your location using crowd-sourced Wi-Fi and cell tower locations or iBeacons.

Apps that can show your location on the screen, including Maps, show your current (approximate) location using a blue marker. If your location can't be determined precisely, you'll see a blue circle around the marker. The size of the circle shows how precisely your location can be determined—the smaller the circle, the greater the precision.

When Location Services is active, a black or white arrow icon appears in the status bar.

Maps, directions, and location-based apps depend on data services. These data services are subject to change and might not be available in all geographic areas, resulting in maps, directions, or location-based information that might be unavailable, inaccurate, or incomplete. Compare the information provided on the device to your surroundings and defer to posted signs to resolve any discrepancies.

Give apps permission to use your Location

The first time an app tries to access your location, even in the background, it will ask for your permission. You'll see which app is asking for permission to use your location, and the app's developer may also explain how their app uses your location.

Some apps will ask to use your location only while the app is in use. An app is considered "in use" when you're actively using it in the foreground, or when it's in use in the background, which the status bar will indicate.

Other apps will ask for access to your location even when the app isn't in use. When you allow an app to always use your location, iOS will remind you which apps are able to use your location after an app uses your location in the background.

Turn Location Services on or off

You can turn Location Services on or off at Settings > Privacy > Location Services. You can turn Location Services on either during the Setup Assistant process or later through the Location Services setting. You can individually control which apps and system services have access to Location Services data. When Location Services are off, apps can't use your location in the foreground or background. This will limit the performance of various Apple and third-party apps.

Settings > Privacy > Location Services.

 

Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services.
 

 

When you turn on Location Services, you also turn on location-based system services such as these:

  • Traffic: If you're physically moving (for example, traveling in a car), your iOS device will periodically send GPS locations and travel speed information in an anonymous and encrypted form to Apple, to be used for augmenting a crowd-sourced road traffic database.
  • Popular Near Me: Your iOS device will periodically send locations of where you have purchased or used apps in an anonymous and encrypted form to Apple to improve a crowd-sourced database. This database may be used to offer geographically relevant apps and other products and services.
  • Frequent Locations: To learn places that are significant to you, your iOS device will keep track of places you have recently been, as well as how often and when you visited them. This data is kept solely on your device and won't be sent to Apple without your consent. It will be used to provide you with personalized services, such as predictive traffic routing.
  • Location-Based iAds: Your iPhone will send your location, including travel speed and direction, to Apple to provide you with geographically relevant iAds.
  • Spotlight Suggestions: When you use Spotlight or Spotlight Suggestions in Safari, the location of your iOS device at the time you submit a search query to Spotlight or Safari will be sent to Apple to make Spotlight Suggestions more relevant and to improve other Apple products and services. If you turn off Location Services for Spotlight Suggestions, your precise location won't be sent to Apple. To deliver relevant search suggestions, Apple may use the IP address of your Internet connection to approximate your location by matching it to a geographic region.
  • Location Based Alerts: Your iOS device will use your location to provide you with geographically relevant alerts, such as a reminder to call someone when you get to a specific place or when to leave for your next appointment based on where you currently are.
  • Share My Location: You can choose to share your current location with others, on a temporary or ongoing basis, from within certain apps, such as Messages and Find my Friends.

The crowd-sourced location data gathered by Apple doesn't personally identify you.

About your location during emergency calls

For your safety, the location information on your device might be used for emergency calls to aid response efforts regardless of whether you enable Location Services.

To protect your privacy, your location information is available only in the event of an emergency call. Your device will always indicate that it's in emergency mode while your location is being shared.

     

Reset or disable Location Services

Location warnings are the requests that apps (such as Camera, Compass, and Maps as well as location-based third-party apps) make to use Location Services with those apps. An app will ask for permission the first time it needs to access Location Services data. Tapping Allow will give that app permission to use Location Services as needed. Tapping Don't Allow will prevent an app from accessing Location Services data. Apps won't use your location until they have asked for your permission and you grant permission.

If you would like to reset all of your location settings to the factory default, go to Settings > General > Reset and tap Reset Location & Privacy. When your location and privacy settings are reset, apps will stop using your location until you grant them permission.

Improve GPS accuracy

GPS accuracy varies depending on the number of visible GPS satellites. Locating all visible satellites can take several minutes, with accuracy gradually increasing over time. Use these tips to improve GPS accuracy:

  • Make sure that you've set the date, time, and time zone correctly on the device in Settings > General > Date & Time. If possible, use Set Automatically.
    Important: Incorrect settings on your computer can sync to your device. Verify the date, time, and time zone on any computer that syncs with your device.
  • Restart your device.
  • Verify that you have a cellular or Wi-Fi network connection. This allows the Assisted GPS (A-GPS) on the device to locate visible GPS satellites faster, in addition to providing initial location information using the Wi-Fi or cellular networks.
    Microcells (sometimes called Femtocells) aren't supported with Location Services.
  • Keep a clear view of the horizon in several directions. Keep in mind that walls, vehicle roofs, tall buildings, mountains, and other obstructions can block line of sight to GPS satellites. When this occurs, your device will automatically use Wi-Fi or cellular networks to determine your position until the GPS satellites are visible again.

Crowd-sourced Wi-Fi and cellular Location Services

If Location Services is on, your device will periodically send the geo-tagged locations of nearby Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers to Apple to augment Apple's crowd-sourced database of Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower locations. If you're traveling (for example, in a car) and Location Services is on, a GPS-enabled iOS device will also periodically send GPS locations and travel speed information to Apple to be used for building up Apple's crowd-sourced road-traffic database. The crowd-sourced location data gathered by Apple is anonymous and encrypted. It doesn't personally identify you.

Learn more

1. iPad (Wi-Fi + Cellular models): Make sure that Cellular Data is on in Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data, even if you're not subscribed to a cellular data plan. This will allow your device to more accurately calibrate itself using network time and location information. In some instances, disabling a SIM PIN may be necessary.
2. iOS devices sold in China may use the term Wireless LAN (WLAN) instead of Wi-Fi. Not all China iPhone models support WLAN.
3. GPS is available on iPhone and iPad Wi-Fi + Cellular models.
4. Bluetooth interacts with iBeacons to provide a way to create and monitor areas that advertise certain identifying information.
5. iOS devices without a cellular connection use only Wi-Fi for Location Services (if a Wi-Fi network is available). Some third-party apps rely on a Wi-Fi connection for region monitoring. If a device is passcode locked, this feature may be limited or inaccurate.

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