It is a fact that most of us today own some sort of device that is connected to the internet. In fact, statistics tell the whole story.
Statistics show that about half of the world’s population (yes, half) is connected to the internet either via a smart device or computer. This means that around 4 billion people out there are connected to the internet.
What’s more, statistics show that there are billions of smartphones, tablets, and connected devices out there at the moment. All of these devices (most of which are Android) are running on the go.
This means that billions of devices are connected to 3G, 4G, or more recently 5G. So, what is the issue exactly?
Well, the answer to that is not very charming, and frankly quite bleak. Devices track your location which can be compromised in a security breach.
To put it simply, billions of users have their tracking information turned on and are not aware of the consequences. It’s like not having curtains in your house where everyone can see what you are doing at all times.
So, let’s take a look at what types of devices track your location, and what to do about it to protect yourself from a variety of security risks and privacy issues.
Any device that you use that communicates with the internet probably can track you. This is especially true of your geographical location.
How is this possible? Well, the modern generation of 3G, 4G, and later devices that aren’t too old, include several sensors and particularly a GPS unit, can easily track multiple bits of information about you including your physical location. Well then, why is tracking such a big deal?
The answer is simple; tracking infringes on your privacy and can cause security concerns for you in the long run.
Ask yourself the following questions; do you want your location to be public at all times? Do you want an unauthorized collection of your location data? Do you want to attract potentially malicious individuals to your location?
Do you want ad companies and data collection agencies looking and analyzing your movement habits? Surely, the answer to all of these is a resounding no.
What Types of Devices Track You?
There are so many varieties of connected devices out there that can track your location that it is difficult to list them all, but here is a comprehensive list (that includes the obvious ones followed by the not-so-obvious);
- Smart Watches
- Apple AirTags
- Any GPS-enabled IoT device (medical devices and miscellaneous gadgets)
Most devices that have some sort of OS (operating system) installed today also come with geolocation sensors. Since the digital transformation is in full swing, and most devices today come with the option of mobile data, it is a big trend to have your devices communicate with other apps, give you traffic information, personalized preferences, and more.
The issue is that keeping all of these options active is communicating a lot of information about you, even without your consent. This essentially makes you an open book for anyone on the other side.
Remember, it isn’t just the device itself that is communicating location information about you, but the applications themselves on your device.
To drive the point, think about the fact that if you own a ‘smart car’ like a Tesla, it communicates a lot of information about you including of course your location and where you drive.
In much the same fashion, your Google account also knows where you are, if you let it, and so do a host of other ‘geosocial’ apps.
In the next section, let’s look at how to limit these issues and therefore maximize your privacy, anonymity, and online security.
What You Can Do To Minimize Tracking
Minimizing tracking means vastly improving your cybersecurity and online privacy. You should think about applying the following solutions;
- Limiting your smartphone’s location settings (Android and iPhone alike)
- Limiting Google’s tracking features on your Android devices
- Limiting any tracking options present in the security menus of your IoT devices
- Use a Virtual Private Network or VPN on your laptops, smartphones, and tablets
- Erasing the ‘location history’ within all of your applications and accounts
Most location settings can be found either under Settings>Privacy Settings, or Settings>Location Services (if they are not there, a simple search for ‘location’ on your device will turn any hidden settings up.)
Now, you also should understand that apart from the devices themselves, your installed apps (services) also have tracking options that are connected to your devices’ sensors. This means that you can switch off location options for anything from Facebook, Google to YouTube (and especially your location history.)
Beyond just messing with your security settings like the above, there is something else that you must use for optimum privacy and security. This is a Virtual Private Network. Installing a premium (avoid the free ones) VPN software allows you to connect to an external server when accessing the internet.
Keep in mind that every device you own that uses a web browser should have a VPN activated. This way, your web browser and other web pages (as well as any malicious hackers) will never know your true location, and advertisers will have a tough time bombarding you with unnecessary material.