7 On Your Side investigates how apps track users' whereabouts

The idea of being followed around every moment of the day may seem unsettling, but that's exactly what some smart phone apps with geolocation features do.
The idea of being followed around every moment of the day may seem irritating and even unsettling, but that's exactly what some smart phone apps with geolocation services do.

The app Swarm keeps track of where users' friends are so they can find them. Facebook also has a feature called "Nearby Friends" that keeps track of friends, where they are and how long they are there.
7 On Your Side intern Ingrid van Diest has the Nearby Friends app on her iPhone.

She said she doesn't like using it. "I never use it or check my friends to see where they are. I think it is creepy and I don't care."

Geolocation isn't stalking because people who download these apps understand the feature and accept have accepted that, but there are some apps out there that don't explicitly state they are following users, but do.

Tyler Cohn Wood is the author of "Catching the Catfishers," a book about online security. She is a senior officer and cyber branch chief for the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Wood showed 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney her smartphone and all of the apps that keep track of her using geolocation.

"People need to read the terms of service for the applications they are using," Wood said. "They need to just quickly look at the permission setting of the applications that they use."

But even with that, she warns there is no absolute privacy online.

"Even these anonymous applications, they're not anonymous," she said. "Someone is always going to know something and there is always going to be a digital bread crumb left behind. The good news is if you know that, if you understand that, you can take control of that and you can control the image that you want for people to see."

Checking the geolocation features on an app and turning it off is the best way to erase digital footsteps and also save battery life.


Related Topics:
shopping technology facebook smartphones business surveillance
(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

Load Comments

7 ON YOUR SIDE
More 7 On Your Side

SHOPPING
More Shopping

Top Stories
Show More
Map My News