Nov 18, 2015 — by: E. Werner Reschke
Categories: iOS, iPhone

SurveillanceWith the advent of iOS 7, Apple included a feature called Frequent Locations. This was a tracking mechanism that allowed your iPhone to take inventory of where the iPhone went and how long it stayed in one location. With the release of iOS 9 Apple made this feature exceedingly more prominent, or intrusive (depending how one views it).

The way you know if Frequent Locations is activated is that your iPhone will pop up an alert telling you how many minutes it will take to get to a particular destination. For example around 6pm, when I would get into my car to head home, my iPhone would display “Approximately 44 minutes to reach home” or provide a similar message. At times iPhone would also inform me about traffic. My first thought was that I must have turned on some setting, but I realized I had not. My second thought was that this feature is creepy – how do I shut this off?

The answer is buried deep within iPhone settings. Frequent Locations does track everywhere iPhone goes and how long it stays in any location. The software then catalogs this information and predicts where your next destination might be based on what it knows from your past behavior. Frequent Locations is on by default in iOS 9, so if you don’t want your iPhone keeping tabs on you, you can turn it off (more on that later).

Apple claims that Frequent Locations information, which is tracking location/behavior, remains on the iPhone and is not uploaded to iCloud or anywhere else. Only iPhone uses this data in order to help provide helpful information in a predictive manner. While Apple may not have access to this sensitive information, hackers, thieves or cleverly written apps certainly could. If your iPhone is stolen or is somehow hacked, this information is laid bare for nefarious eyes to glean.

After I had figured out what my iPhone was doing I turned the service off. First, the predictive ability was not all the helpful. I know it takes me about 44 minutes to get from my home to work, and traffic is never a problem where I live (I live in rural part of my state, where there are more sage brush than people). iPhone telling me something I already know is more annoying than helpful. It’s like my teenage son reminding me I’m 50 years old. I already know that, and prefer not to be reminded of it every time a new body parts starts aching.

What iPhone keeps track of is somewhat disturbing to me, and even more so, that it was on by default. Again, if this information were in the wrong hands, it would be dangerous to my well being. Another way of saying this is — this information is a stocker’s dream come true. No surveillance needed, iPhone has done all the work for the stocker.

Turn it off!

If you are like me and do not like what Apple has programmed iPhone to do, you can turn this feature off. To do so in iOS 9, go to:

  • System Preferences
    • Privacy
      • Location Services
        • System Services (bottom of list)
          • Frequent Locations

Img_3700Here is where you can see all the data that your iPhone collects about where you go, when you go and how long you stay there. Turning Frequent Locations off is as easy as flipping a switch. Moreover you can erase all the data iPhone has collected to date.

Some people will find this predictive iPhone behavior helpful, and that’s great. I don’t and do not need any device tracking my whereabouts. I know the phone company keeps similar data, but I can’t really do anything about that, but I can do something about this,... and have.


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