Can’t disable Location Services in Safari on iPhone
Ask iLounge offers readers the opportunity to get answers to their iPod-, iPhone-, iPad-, iTunes-, or Apple TV-related questions from a member of the iLounge editorial team. We'll answer several questions here each week, and of course, you can always get help with more immediate concerns from the iLounge Discussion Forums. Submit your questions for consideration using our Ask iLounge Submit Form. We reserve the right to edit questions for grammar, spelling, and length.
Q: I recently bought an iPhone 5, but I’m one of those people who just can’t handle the idea of my iPhone tracking my every move, so I keep the “location” features turned off except when I really need them. My understanding is that this should prevent any app on the iPhone—including the browser—from being able to track my whereabouts. It seems that some web sites in Safari are still able to do this, though, so I’m not sure that I’ve turned it off properly. For example, when I go to a “Store Locator” page for certain businesses, it always seems to default to searching in my area? How can this be if I have location services off? Is there something else I need to disable? I really hate the idea that web sites can figure out where I am based on the GPS in my phone.
A: Turning location services off is relatively straightforward—simply go into Settings, Privacy, Location Services on your iPhone. From here you can toggle off location services globally such that no apps can access it—including internal Apple features such as “Find My iPhone”—or you can disable it on a per-app basis.
Further, even if you have Location Services enabled for Safari, you should see a prompt whenever a web site is requesting location information from your iPhone. In fact, some sites such as Google Maps will even notify you when they cannot access your location, either because you’ve denied them permission (tapped “Don’t Allow”) or you have location services disabled—either globally or specifically for Safari.
If you are not approving any requests to use your location or you do in fact have location services disabled entirely, then your iPhone is not specifically sending your location information. What is likely happening with sites that appear to know your location is that they are tracking this information based not on your actual location, but on the IP address that you are connecting to the Internet from.
Every device that accesses the Internet requires a unique IP address, and while many of these are assigned dynamically by ISPs and cellular carriers, they can still usually be traced back to a general geographic area based on the Internet registry. In most cases this is often no more accurate than the city that you are in, although some IP address blocks in major metropolitan areas can be tracked down to a general suburb or large neighbourhood. On the other hand, it’s also equally possible for this information to be completely inaccurate, since it’s based on where the IP address block that you’re in is registered to, not based on where you actually are.
However, due to the limited availability of IP addresses, chances are that you are actually connecting to the Internet using a shared, common IP address for your home, school, office or cellular provider rather than a public IP address that is specifically assigned to your individual iPhone.
The bottom line is that there’s really nothing you can do about this sort of tracking, as public IP addresses are publicly available and in fact necessary in order for devices to communicate with each other on the Internet. However, the publicly registered information for an IP address is very rarely precise enough to even identify the street that your home or office is on, much less a more specific location, and will provide even less specific information when you are on a cellular network away from your home or office.
- Will removing a credit card from Safari also remove it from Apple Pay?
- Can I mute Handoff calls coming into my Mac from my iPhone?
- How do I keep my iPhone calls from ringing on my Mac?
- Why doesn’t Traffic show up on my Today Notifications Screen?
- Why doesn’t my iPhone reconnect to Wi-Fi after I turn it on?
- Why can’t I see the iPad-style landscape view on my iPhone 6 Plus?
- Beta testing for Pokémon GO begins in the U.S.
- Apple’s plan to open stores in India hits a snag (Update: India’s finance minister ratifies ruling)
- Apple looking into charging stations for electric cars
- Apple hires hint at improvements in encryption, health monitoring
- Hyundai adds CarPlay support to more vehicles
- Plaintiffs file new motion to keep ‘Error 53’ Touch ID lawsuit alive
- Report: Apple developing Siri home speaker to rival Amazon’s Echo; will release Siri SDK at WWDC
- iOS Spotlight search now offers relevant results for some emoji
- Cook discusses ambitious plan to beef up Apple Watch’s health monitoring
- New leak shows dual camera exclusive to ‘iPhone 7 Plus,’ but no Smart Connector
- OtterBox Symmetry Series Hybrid Case for 12.9” iPad Pro
- Logitech Logi BASE Charging Stand for iPad Pro
- Twelve South TimePorter for Apple Watch
- August Doorbell Cam
- August Smart Lock HomeKit enabled + Smart Keypad
- ecobee3 HomeKit-enabled smart Wi-Fi thermostat
- Zagg Now Cam
- Yantouch EyE Portable Wireless Speaker
- Netatmo Wind Gauge
- Incipio Stashback for iPhone 6/6s
- Filling the Gap: A look at third-party HomeKit apps
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of tvOS 9.2
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 9.3
- Opinion: Why Apple needs a dedicated HomeKit app
- Inside the betas: What’s new in iOS 9.3 and tvOS 9.2 (Updated)
- Life with HomeKit: Our experiences with Apple’s home automation system
- Under the Radar: 10 ‘hidden’ details about the new Apple TV
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 9.0
- Under the Radar: A closer look at smaller iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus changes
- A First Look at iOS 9’s Transit in Apple Maps (Updated for watchOS 2)