What are location services and how do they work?

Article by Douglas Crawford: “Location services refer to a combination of technologies used in devices like smartphones and computers that use data from your device’s GPS, WiFi, mobile (cellular networks), and sometimes even Bluetooth connections to determine and track your geographic location.

This information can be accessed by your operating system (OS) and the apps installed on your device. In many cases, this allows them to perform their purpose correctly or otherwise deliver useful content and features. 

For example, navigation/map, weather, ridesharing (such Uber or Lyft), and health and fitness tracking apps require location services to perform their functions, while datingtravel, and social media apps can offer additional functionality with access to your device’s location services (such as being able to locate a Tinder match or see recommendations for nearby restaurants ).

There’s no doubt location services (and the apps that use them) can be useful. However, the technology can be (and is) also abused by apps to track your movements. The apps then usually sell this information to advertising and analytics companies  that combine it with other data to create a profile of you, which they can then use to sell ads. 

Unfortunately, this behavior is not limited to “rogue” apps. Apps usually regarded as legitimate, including almost all Google apps, Facebook, Instagram, and others, routinely send detailed and highly sensitive location details back to their developers by default. And it’s not just apps — operating systems themselves, such as Google’s Android and Microsoft Windows also closely track your movements using location services. 

This makes weighing the undeniable usefulness of location services with the need to maintain a basic level of privacy a tricky balancing act. However, because location services are so easy to abuse, all operating systems include built-in safeguards that give you some control over their use.

In this article, we’ll look at how location services work..(More)”.

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