Tips on how to stay safe online during the COVID-19 pandemic

GPS and location-based services

GPS gives you access to a wide range of location-based services for your convenience and enjoyment.

What is GPS?

GPS stands for Global Positioning System, a technology that gives location and time information using signals from satellites. Anyone with a GPS-enabled device can use GPS.

Many devices come with in-built GPS. Phones, digital cameras, in-car navigation systems, many fitness trackers and smart watches come with GPS. And you can even buy GPS trackers for pets. Many apps use GPS, like Pokemon Go! and Google Maps.

Apps that use GPS can give you directions to places, and locate your closest services of interest, like cinemas, restaurants and shops. Fitness apps that use GPS can keep track of where and how far you have walked, run, cycled, surfed or swum. 

Geo-tagging uses GPS to identify where and when photos are taken and stores the information in a photo. GPS devices can also connect to other devices using Bluetooth.

Are there any risks in using GPS?

The risk with GPS is that, in the wrong hands, the location information collected can be used to track your whereabouts. Someone with access to GPS location information can work out where you go and what you do, and even where you live.

What can I do about the risks?

There are many ways to reduce the risks when using GPS:

Keep your devices secure with strong passcodes or passwords. Read more about device security for phones and tablets and for laptops and computers.

Make sure you have strong security settings on your devices and do not leave them on the default settings, particularly the default device name and default password.

Turn off GPS and location services when you are not using them.

Be aware of the security risks associated with apps. Only download apps from official sites like Apple’s App store and the Google Play store. Review the apps on your phone and tablet to identify which apps use location information. Think about which apps you really do need to allow access to your location information and turn off location services for all others. If privacy or safety is a concern for you, do not opt in to sharing your location through apps that allow location sharing with friends.

Switch off location services for the camera on your phone or tablet to prevent geo-tagging.

Make a habit of deleting location history from your phone. If you are an iPhone user, clear your frequent locations history too.

Be careful about the data you share with ride-sharing services — make sure you turn off location services once you have completed your ride, where possible use a log in that is separate to your social media accounts, and find out how they will keep your credit card and personal details secure. 

If you have a navigation device in your car — delete your trip history on a regular basis. Do not set your actual home address as ‘home’ — instead, type the address in manually or set ‘home’ as a location a few blocks away from your home. That way, if someone breaks into your car, they will not be able to find out where you live.  Make sure only your phone is paired with your navigation device. Read more about pairing and Bluetooth.

‘How to’ videos

Apple iOS - turning off location services

How to turn off location services on Apple devices

Android - turning off location services

How to turn off location services on Android devices