Tech

A Sketchy Hidden Map in Your iPhone Tracks Everywhere You've Been

Published On 11/12/2015 Published On 11/12/2015
Rachel Kuzma/Thrillist

It’s no secret that Apple has been collecting location data from users for years. But who knew it was so insanely detailed, or how easily it could ruin your life? The fear is real, people, because there’s a terrifying, possibly sentient map hidden deep inside your Settings menu that plots every location you’ve visited, when, and how often. 

What's that mean for you? Well, basically: anyone with access to your phone -- think a suspicious girlfriend/suspicious parent/suspicious Bill Fichtner -- can look it up if they know what to do. Here’s how to find it, and immediately shut it off.

Screenshot via iOS 9/Shutterstock

One of the craziest things about this sucker is just how deeply Apple has buried it.

Step 1: From the main Settings menu, select Privacy
Step 2:
Select Location Services
Step 3:
Scroll aaaall the way down to the bottom to System Services
Step 4: 
Scroll about three-quarters of the way down to Frequent Locations. Note: this is where you turn this feature off. Which, just wait for it, you'll definitely want to do.

Screenshot via iOS 9/Shutterstock

The next menu reveals the major cities or towns where you've most recently been. They're arranged in descending order of time spent in each, and summarize how many locations you were recorded at within a particular time frame. 

Click on one...

Screenshot via iOS 9/Shutterstock

... and it pulls up a detailed view of exactly where you've been in the area, complete with plot points and how many visits are recorded in each place. Creeped out yet?

Screenshot via iOS 9/Shutterstock

Clicking through even further, you get a specific location display with dates and approximate timestamps of when you've been there. A co-worker's map of the Thrillist office, above, even shows when he takes his lunch breaks. Uh.

Apple says there's no reason to fear your data being tracked since it's "kept solely on your device and won't be sent to Apple without your consent" and is generally only there to "provide you with personalized services, such as predictive traffic routing."

Sure, OK. But the fact that some simple snooping would reveal to your better half that you definitely weren't "working late" the other night should freak you out just the same.

We'll wait right here while you turn off Frequent Locations completely.

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Joe McGauley is a senior writer for Thrillist whose Frequent Locations reveal that he hasn't been above 14th St in like three months.

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