Instagram’s 'precise location' tracking is nothing new, here’s how to turn it off

Instagram app logo on iOS
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

A recent post warning about the dangers of Instagram's seemingly new 'precise location' feature went viral on social media, shaking the whole internet community. 

First posted on Instagram by Goal Digger Coaching, an influencer marketing company, they claim that the latest app update could make users vulnerable to crimes like stalking and theft. 

A wave of warnings about this privacy matter, urging to turn off the precise location feature, has quickly been spreading across worried social media users.   

While Instagram rejects such allegations, people who are concerned about their online privacy will be happy to know that there's a way to avoid location-data tracking from happening. 

Instagram says there's nothing to worry about 

It's fair to say the social media platform didn't take long to respond to concerns. In a tweet, Instagram reassured its users on how the 'precise location' is actually used.

"To be clear, we don’t share your location with others. Similar to other social media companies, we use precise location for things like location tags and maps features.

It also suggests that people can customize their own location settings, and tag locations on the posts they've shared only if they want to do so. 

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What is 'precise location'?

'Precise location' is a tablet and smartphone tracking method deployed by iOS and Android to allow apps you download on your device to access your geo-localization data.

Contrary to what the infamous post claimed, this is not an Instagram unique feature. What's more, in recent years, both Apple and Google have updated their privacy policies to give users more control over their own location-data. 

As Apple said during the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in 2020: "This year, we’re continuing to give you even more control. In addition to the option of sharing your precise location, you’ll have the option to only share your approximate location with apps.”

Similarly, with last year's Android 12 release, Google stressed the importance of users' privacy as a focal point. Every time you download a new application, your device now asks you for permission from an app to access a feature of the phone - like your camera, mic or location details. Users can also opt to only provide these with an approximate location.

Apple describes its approximate location to be around 10 square miles, while on Google is about 1.2 square miles. 

How to turn off 'precise location'

Even though sharing your location with your Instagram, or other apps like Google Maps and Uber, doesn't make you vulnerable to stalking or other real-life dangers, you may not wish to share your 'precise location' at all times. 

As mentioned above, both iOS and Android give users options to customize data collection choices according to their needs. 

On iOS, head to Settings, open Privacy and then the Location Services tab. Here, open Instagram to switch off the Precise Location toggle. Alternatively, go into Settings and scroll down to Instagram and tap Location.

Turning off 'Precise Location' on Instagram in iOS settings

(Image credit: Future)

If you have an Android device, go on Settings and open the Location tab. Here, tap on Google Location Accuracy to turn off the precise location option. You can also head on over to Settings and then Privacy to further customize app permissions as well as clear your Google location history. 

Android settings for turning off precise location

(Image credit: Future)

It is worth noting that some apps require your precise location to function effectively. These include Maps, Uber and Deliveroo. 

To enjoy their services, you will need to turn your precise location back on. You can always disable this when you don't need it. 

Chiara Castro
Senior Staff Writer

Chiara is a multimedia journalist committed to covering stories to help promote the rights and denounce the abuses of the digital side of life—wherever cybersecurity, markets and politics tangle up. She mainly writes news, interviews and analysis on data privacy, online censorship, digital rights, cybercrime, and security software, with a special focus on VPNs, for TechRadar Pro, TechRadar and Tom’s Guide. Got a story, tip-off or something tech-interesting to say? Reach out to chiara.castro@futurenet.com