Lurking on Location


If you are anything like the Uber driver in one of our articles last year, you know that using location services for a GPS is a great tool. While location services can be incredibly helpful, they can also allow people to know your whereabouts, even if you’d prefer to keep that to yourself. With social media incorporating this feature more and more into its functionality, how can this affect everyday life? How much location data does your phone share without you knowing about it?

In a new study, ADT surveyed more than 1,000 smartphone users who utilize location services and social media. The data explores how many people keep their location services turned on, with whom they share their whereabouts, and what friends, family, and significant others might be doing with that information once they have it. Here are some of the results.

Finding Your Friends

It’s general knowledge to keep information like a Social Security number, credit card number, or driver’s license number to yourself, but are people taking the same type of precautions when it comes to their location? 

ADT’s survey revealed that 34.8% of people always or often leave their cellphone location turned on. Nearly 40% sometimes leave in on, and only 21.8% of people rarely use this function. Just 3.8% of respondents never use this feature. 

How does location sharing affect safety? More than 1 in 10 people surveyed said they feel less safe, but 54% said they feel the same level of security. More than 1 in 3 people even said they feel safer with their location-sharing feature turned on.

Approximately 41% of women said they felt safer once they shared their location, but only 26.1% of men agreed. Safety was the top reason people shared their whereabouts, and women were nearly 16 percentage points more likely to share for this reason.

A private Snapchat account is the social media platform on which respondents were most likely to share their location or check-in (60.9%). But only 31.9% with a public Snapchat account shared where they were. Of the four social media platforms analyzed – Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter – Twitter users were most likely to share their whereabouts with a public account (73.5%) than any other. Just 26.5% with a private Twitter account chose to share their location.

Those who are traveling (62.9%), dining out (58.6%), or attending a concert or festival (51.4%) are checking in most often on social media, according to the study. 

Who Are People Sharing Their Location With?

Whether you buy a brand new cellphone or opt for a used one, knowing how to use these functions is essential. On average, respondents shared their location with four people. The most common recipients included their significant other (56%), friends (40%), parents (40%), and siblings (36%). Co-workers (5.8%) and other family members (22.2%) were at the bottom of the list of people privy to locations. 

About 3 in 5 respondents felt safest when they shared their location with their significant other (60.8%), but 39.2% said they felt less secure. When survey participants shared their location with their parents, 46.3% said they felt safer. 

People involved with the study also revealed who was sharing their locations with them, as well. Their significant others (49.2%), friends (37.1%), and parents (31.7%) were the people sharing most often. 

The study also showed that about 1 in 4 people admitted to using social media or location services to check an ex’s location after a breakup. Men (25.3%) were more likely than women (20.3%) to employ these tactics.

People were most likely to check the location of their children (47.5%), significant other (31.1%), and parents (28.4%) every day. 

When men and women were compared, women were more likely to want to check someone’s location to assure their safety and assess travel times. Men accessed locations more because they were curious or wanted to know why an individual canceled plans with them. Approximately 17% of people tried to run into someone by using their location information. Men were more than twice as likely to try this than women. 

Location Sharing and Home Safety

Almost half (44.3%) of those surveyed had a home security system, and more than half (52.2%) of people feel that their home and valuables are more at risk due to social media location sharing. Only 23.9% disagree. Alternatively, 46.4% of people who always or often share their locations do not feel their valuables are at risk. 

According to the survey, 13.5% of respondents had their home broken into, and of those people, 40.7% shared their location on social media before it happened. Nearly 1 in 4 people said the person who broke into their home could see their location on social media.

According to MobileAppDaily, approximately 49% of app users are opening an app more than 11 times a day. If this is the case for social media apps and people share their location even a couple of those times when they log on, they could be putting themselves at risk. Letting loved ones know where you are is rarely harmful, but sometimes sharing that information on a platform where only they can see it is a safer bet.


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