How to Disable Location Tracking in macOS

Nov 7, 2018 3 min read
How to Disable Location Tracking in macOS

One of the more eyebrow-raising functions of macOS is an  always-on location tracker. While that sounds nefarious, Apple has  dressed it up with the less scary sounding name, “Significant  Locations.” Despite the fancy name, the fact that this feature is buried  in macOS settings makes its usefulness to anyone other than  Apple questionable at best. Fortunately, if you don’t like the idea of  your computer keeping a stalker-ish list of every place you’ve ever  been, you can shut it off.

What is “Significant Locations?”

Significant  Locations is more or less a port of the feature iOS calls “Frequent  Locations”. Essentially, your Mac keeps track of the places you’ve been.  This probably isn’t a big deal for people who use a desktop iMac  (unless of course you cart it around under your arm). However, folks who  tote their Macbooks around might find this concerning. According to  Apple, this data is used by Maps, Calendar and Photos to give the user  “useful location-related information.” How useful this feature is will  depend heavily on how a person uses their Mac. Currently, this location  data is only stored locally on your Mac and is not beamed back to Apple.


At  this stage, Significant Locations is designed to make your experience  using macOS more intuitive. That being said, even though this  information is stored locally, there are still security and privacy  concerns. For instance, if you upload your photos to social media from  your Mac, your photos will retain all of the location information  embedded by macOS. This means that services like Facebook, who collect  all metadata in a photo, will also have access to your location  information. From a security and privacy point of view, this is  disturbing.


Of  course, just because Apple doesn’t collect your location data now, that  doesn’t mean that Apple won’t ever collect this information. In today’s  world where data is more valuable than gold, it isn’t hard to imagine  Apple exploiting the location data it collects. While Apple has a pretty  good track record when it comes to customer privacy, they could easily  use your location info to send you targeted ads or suggestions for  places to shop or eat. Of course, some people will consider this a  helpful feature. However, if the idea of your computer spying on you  gives you the willies, you can turn off “Significant Locations.”

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How to Disable Location Tracking


As  we mentioned before, turning off the Significant Locations feature  requires a little digging. First, you’ll want to open your System  Preferences. You can do so in one of two ways: either click on the cog  icon in your dock or click on the Apple icon and select “System  Preferences” in the dropdown box.

Once the System Preferences  window is open, select “Security & Privacy.” In the Security &  Privacy Window click the “Privacy” tab. Click on the lock icon in the  bottom-left of the window. At this point your Mac will prompt you to  enter your administrator password. Once that’s done, click “Location  Services” from the column on the left. In the column on the right,  scroll down until you see “System Services.” To the right of “System  Services” you’ll notice a button labeled “Details.” Go ahead and click  on that.


At  this stage you’ll be presented with a list of system services that  utilize your location information. You can disable the “Significant  Locations” feature by unchecking the corresponding box. You can also  have a look at all the locations your computer has logged up until this  point by clicking the “Details” button. Doing so will list all of the  places you’ve been with your laptop in tow. Hit the “Clear History”  button to wipe everything if you wish.

How do you feel about this  new macOS “service?” Does it bother you that seemingly everything wants  to keep tabs on your every move? If so, what do you do to limit tracking  in your daily life? If not, why doesn’t it concern you? Let us know in  the comments!

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