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Preventing location tracking

One of the most common forms of data collected is location data. The privacy implications of location data can be tricky, as many technologies we use to our great benefit need to access our location to deliver this benefit. For instance, in using a maps or directions application, you need to give away your location for the app to function properly and give you the information you need. However, entities may also use your location data for a variety of other reasons, such as to serve location-specific ads, to track customer as they move through a store, and to see where they are located geographically. Additionally, malware may collect location data for more nefarious purposes.

There are many ways to collect location-related data, and many of these ways are surreptitious and occur unbeknownst to most consumers. Below are some of the ways location data is collected, and some of the ways consumers can control, or protect against, location data collection.

  • GPS location services

    GPS location services are a main source of geolocation for mobile devices, and can be turned off either device-wide, or on an app-by-app basis. Many apps can track your location in the background or when not in use, so managing GPS location can significantly limit location tracking.


  • Wifi or ethernet location tracking

    WIFI (or ethernet) can also reveal your location because of the way Internet protocols work. To access data from the Internet, whatever is sending the data needs to know where to send the data too. Because of this, Internet protocols require users to unveil their location data to a certain degree. If your device is open to connect to the Internet, it is likely your device is unveiling both IP address and MAC address information.

  • Cellular network tracking

    Cell network usage and cell site location information work in much of the same ways as Internet location data works.

  • Location tracking by Cookie

    Cookies are small identifiers that websites save on your computer in order to identify you. When you return to a site, you can be identified by this unique cookie, and previous data collected about you can be re-associated to you. While cookies can be used to users’ benefits by storing preferences and settings, they can also be used to track users and create data profiles. Additionally, third party cookies installed by ads on the website, or by companies like Facebook through the Facebook Like button, can track you via cookies as you traverse sites throughout the Internet.

  • Mobile apps can access your location

    Understand what apps you’re downloading and how they can access your location


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The Office of Privacy and Data Protection announces beta testing of “Privacy Modeling,” a new web application that identifies the privacy laws relevant to the product or service you wish to create.

Go to Privacy Modelling App

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