How to Limit Location Access on a Smart Phone

Location information on smart phones can sometimes be a privacy and safety issue for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. For instance, if applications on the phone publicly shares the location of the phone, privacy and safety can be compromised. This short video shows you how to limit apps' access to your phone's location.


Hi! This is Kaofeng Lee with the National Network to End Domestic Violence. Today, we’re going to talk about how to limit location access on your smartphone. Your smartphone, and, in fact, all cell phones, have the ability to track its location, via GPS or the networks that your phone is connected to, including wifi and celluar networks. This information is used for a variety of purposes. For example, if you’re lost, law enforcement might be able to find you based on your phone’s location. The location information on your phone can also be used by apps that you download, such as maps or social networks. 

Some people, however, might not want these apps to have access to their location. So today, I’m going to show you how to limit those apps’ access to your location information.

First, I’m going to show you how to limit location access on an iphone. This is an iPhone 4S. Ok. Go to Settings. Then scroll down to Privacy. Select Location Services, and this is where you can limit your apps access to your location. 

You have the option of not allowing any of your apps access to your location by tapping and turning off Location Services. Or you can pick and choose which app you want to have access to your location. Now as you can see, most of my apps have location access turned off. I can allow access when I need it and disallow access when I don’t need it.  

The nice thing about the iPhone is that whenever a particular app is using you cell phone location, an arrow icon will show up next to that app, which is helpful if you’re not sure which of your apps is currently pulling your location.

Ok, so what about an Andriod phone? This is a Samsung Galaxy S4. Similar to the iPhone you can turn off location access globally. Go to Settings, then tap on More. Under Location, slide the bar so the green bar becomes gray. By doing this most applications on your phone will be not be able to access your location.

If you want to limit a particular application’s access to your location, you’ll need to go to the app’s setting. I’m going to show you how to turn off location for the camera app. This is especially important because if your camera app has the location turned on, all the pictures that you take will have the location information embedded in the photograph. This is called geotagging. Depending on how your share that photograph, someone might be able to find out the location of where the photo was taken.

Ok, let’s turn off the location access to your camera app. So on the Galaxy S4, open your camera app. Click the gear wheel on the side – this is the settings icon – then tap the gear wheel again at the top right of the screen. A box will pop up; tap the gear wheel again, and turn Location Tag OFF. And that’s how you can turn off location for your camera app.

Keep in mind that depending on the type of phone you have, where you find the location privacy settings might be in a different place. Some phones might not even give you the option. If your phone doesn’t have location settings, you can limit location access by putting your phone into airplane mode or by turning off your phone. Be aware though, that when you turn it back on, your location information will be shared again.

If there are applications on your phone that are using your location information and you have no options to remove the location access, consider deleting the app—particularly if you don’t need the application or can download a similar app that will not ask for your location information.  

For more information on cell phones and location privacy, check out our resources at

Thanks for watching, and see you next time!