How to stop Google Latitude from tracking you

Google Latitude just landed on iPhone and as with any location-based app, it's always good to know how to turn it off and maintain your privacy when you so choose. This one can be a little trickier than most since it looks like even quitting the app and rebooting doesn't turn off Latitude tracking.

We don't know if this is some bad coding on Google's part, whether Apple's background location API is supposed to be allowed to do this or not, or if this is just the way Latitude is designed to work (scrary if so!) but it just seems to stay on. In order to turn Latitude's tracking off this is what you need to do:

  • Tap Settings
  • Tap General
  • Tap Location Services
  • Scroll down to Latitude
  • Flip the switch to off

You should see the little arrow icon in the status bar up top disappear and then you'll know Google is no longer following your every move. To turn it on again just flip the switch back.

UPDATE: Yes you can go into Latitude: Settings and turn off Background Updating. That works too. Whether you wish to turn it off in Google's app or Apple's settings is up to you. If you want to be really sure maybe do both. Either way not everyone may understand what is needed t

Are you sensitive about your location and does Latitude raise any alarms for you if so? Let us know in the comments!

[Thanks @bengillam]

How to stop Google Latitude from tracking you

Georgia

Senior Editor at iMore and a practicing therapist specializing in stress and anxiety. She speaks everywhere from conferences to corporations, co-host of Vector, Review, and Isometric podcasts, and should be followed on Twitter @Georgia_Dow.

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Reader comments

How to stop Google Latitude from tracking you

24 Comments

Well I intend to prevent Latitude from tracking me by not installing it in the first place. Simple, cheap and effective.
It never ceases to amaze me how people get caught up in the "social networking revolution" without considering how much private information they are giving the likes of Google, FaceBook and Apple and with no guarantee how this information will be used by them. Giving them your location 24 X 7 is just madness. If I want to find out where a friend of mine is at a given time I do it the old fashioned way - I ask them.

Does the "background" setting in Latitude not do what it implies? I turned it off, and the location "arrow" went away when exiting the app. I also did the above "workaround" just as a precaution, and since I rarely use Latitude, it may not even last that long on my phone. But I wonder about that background setting (it was set to on as a default).

The way its shown in the article is not the correct way..
To turn off the background tracking

  • Open Google Latitude
  • Tap on the settings icon ( upper right hand side )
  • Under Options turn off Background updating

Even better if you are concerned about your privacy don't install the app :)

@ applejosh its set to on by default .. but it does ask the user if they wait it turned off when they first install the app.

I feel bad for Rene. The app works exactly as intended. Nothing here is scary. We get it you hate Google. Maybe another TIPB member should do the Google App write ups.

@Sohail:
I don't know about you but I trust the built in location kill switch more, and it's just as "right" a way.
@Steve Woz
I love Google and I didn't write this article, Georgia did (I was busy filming the video :) ). I believe she loves (and uses) Google too. However, being in control of that love isn't a bad thing :p

But hang on, isn't this the whole POINT of Latitude? The always-on nature of it is the reason d-étre for it.
What will be the next article... "How to Download Angry Birds and Remove all the Fun"?

While I personally have no use for the app, those that are into it would probably welcome the always-on-tracking functionality... until they get into some sort of awkward situation because of it ;)

Actually that is the way it is suppose to work. The app keeps going unless you tell it in the app not to work in the background or do what the video shows. Not a bug. Loopt, PlaceTrack and others do the same thing.

What do you think happens when you use Google Maps? Your location is tracked and stored... They store your location via GeoIP when you check GMail or use Google search too. You don't want someone tracking your location - don't carry your cell phone. The cell company and government can find your location any time they want if you have your cell phone with you (some believe even if your phone is turned off!)

Isn't the whole point of latitude to track you constantly? If you don't want it to do that why would you download and use it in the first place... lol

It sounds like something non-trusting parents (or husbands, wives, boyfriends or girlfriends hahaha) would install on their kids' iPhones to know where they are (and thus an idea what they're doing), then turn on parental controls so the kids can't delete it hahaha.

Just to clear up a few things for the folks that haven't used this before:
1) you only share your location with the people you wish to share with
2) you can adjust,per user, how detailed your location will be (street level, city level, or manually entered)
3) even with street level selected, it doesn't update very often, anywhere from about 15 minutes to one hour between updates
4) it doesn't show any history, it only shows your last known location and someone would have to watching it constantly to see where you have been
Being able to manually enter a location could be handy IF you were trying to throw someone off of your trail, hint hint.

This is silly. Every iPhone app that makes use of the background location API tracks in the background regardless of whether it is in the Multi-tasking tray or not. Background location is persistent until turned off either in the app's own settings, or as shown in the video, via the general "Location Services" setting.

Latitudie does the same thing. I recommend the in-app disable rather than keeping it off forever. Otherwise when you WANT to use it, it's easier.

@DJ trapper, not true no app i have used yet persists in using gps when you have force quit it!, take tomtom, i always force quit to make sure its finished with gps and the indicator goes. With latitude it does not.
This must be against the API rules.
I have uninstalled for now but from a user perspective and especially on an apple device you would picture a closed app (no obvious process runnning, checked with istat/activity monitor) not to be using gps any more, but it clearly is in this case.

"or if this is just the way Latitude is designed to work (scrary if so!) but it just seems to stay on."
This is exactly what Latitude is DESIGNED to do, track and share your location until you tell it not to. It's supposed to stay on and turn on on boot.
From app description in iTunes:
"Latitude lets you share your location in the background, even when the app is closed or your device screen is locked.

  • Control your privacy – share only city-level location, hide your location, or turn off background updating at any time. "

Okay, the problem here is not that is works in the background; GPS apps like CoPilot do the same. The issue is that Latitude continues to run the location services even when the app is terminated. That is an issue. If you stop an app complete all of it's services should terminate along with it. I don't think people mind it running just because they switched to another app putting this one in the background. But, when you quit the app it's suppose to stop everything it's doing right then and there.

This is not cool. I have utilized a considerable amount of resources and vigilance in keeping my ex-wife and her snooping lawyer's away from me and despite turning off all locators on all my wi-fi enabled equipment google just gave them my new address and current location without asking me or advising me that they were going to do it. Can you say stalker google? Do you realize you have actually placed me in danger? Someone ACTUALLY threw a fire extinguisher off the back of a truck and it hit the front end of my vehicle at 70 mph...totally destroyed my car. I thought they could not find me..until today when my phone started giving out my location. Now I have to defend myself against a stalker whom was suddenly given my exact location because you thought it was a good idea????