- Six out of ten Americans believe that it is impossible to go through daily life without having their personal data collected! 
- Most Americans feel that they have little control over the data that companies, and the government collect about them. 
- Data collection and location tracking is such a hot topic that even the National Security Agency (NSA) chimed in on the issue! 
In today’s digital economy, the person who controls the data has all the power. Companies are constantly trying to upend each other on who can collect and sell the most data. While data collection does allow for a more “personalized” online experience, it can also be used to profile an individual. Moreover, the aggregation of data can allow malicious actors to track down the individual. This threat is so significant, that the NSA recently disseminated regulations on how organizations can curtail their location data exposure to protect personnel from being tracked. Today, O’Mard Consulting Services, LLC will help you limit your location data exposure in 3 simple steps!
Limit App Permissions
In general, apps should be given the least amount of permissions, as possible, to avoid unnecessary data collection and unauthorized access to your device. Carefully examine your privacy settings to ensure that apps are not using, and or sharing your location data without your permission. Nowadays, many apps will allow a user to grant (the app) access to their location data, only if necessary, while the user is using the app, such as Google Maps.
Disable Bluetooth and Wi-Fi When Not in Use
As previously discussed in “Why is Bluetooth not a secure protocol?,” Bluetooth technology is susceptible to a variety of attacks. One of the easiest ways to protect yourself from a cyber-attack, and limit a malicious actor’s ability to track you, is to disable Bluetooth when it is not needed. Advertisers and store merchants are notorious for deploying Bluetooth “beacons” throughout their stores, which allows them the ability to serve customers store coupons, maps, and track their location throughout the store. People should also disable their phone’s Wi-Fi receiver, when not in use, as some of the same tactics used to serve coupons, ads, and gather location data, can also be used on Wi-Fi-connected devices. This is typically done in major transit hubs, such as airports, where if you connect to the airport’s “free” Wi-Fi, you may start to see ads for a duty free shop that’s conveniently located 30 ft from where you are standing.
In 2014, a Russian soldier, named Alexander Sotkin, made the mistake of geo-tagging a photo on Instagram. While this blunder may seem harmless, it showed the world that Russian forces were operating in East Ukraine at a time when Russia vehemently denied having troops stationed in that region. Geo-tagging photos can have some detrimental effects on civilians too! There are countless stories about how people’s home(s) were burglarized while they were on vacation, and how thieves were able to discern that no one was home. That is because the victims had tagged themselves as being in another country. When traveling abroad, for work or leisure, avoid geo-tagging your photos to maintain, what is known as, operation security (OPSEC). If you must geo-tag a photo, make sure you post it after you return home.
Life is all about risk management. While everyone may not need to “go off the grid,” and while it may not always be feasible to completely implement the aforementioned tips, limiting app permissions, disabling Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, when not in use, and disabling geo-tagging, are all skillful ways to reduce your risk of location data exposure. If you are interested in learning more about how you can reduce your phone’s ability to track you, please feel free to contact us! Don’t forget to subscribe to our weekly newsletter for more tips and tricks of the trade.
- Pew Research Center. “Americans and Privacy: Concerned, Confused and Feeling Lack of Control Over Their Personal Information.” Accessed September 26, 2020. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2019/11/15/americans-and-privacy-concerned-confused-and-feeling-lack-of-control-over-their-personal-information/pi_2019-11-14_privacy_0-01/
- Pew Research Center. “Americans and Privacy: Concerned, Confused and Feeling Lack of Control Over Their Personal Information.” Accessed September 26, 2020. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2019/11/15/americans-and-privacy-concerned-confused-and-feeling-lack-of-control-over-their-personal-information/pi_2019-11-14_privacy_0-02-2/
- Doffman, Zak – Forbes. “How To Stop Your Android Or iPhone Tracking You—New NSA Advice.” Accessed September 26, 2020. https://www.forbes.com/sites/zakdoffman/2020/08/05/nsa-warning-location-tracking-apple-iphone-google-android/#29cff03e73f6