iOS 7 (Settings, Frequent Locations 002)iOS 7 (Settings, Frequent Locations 001)

Apple’s iOS 7 upgrade, when it lands this Fall, will allow users to opt-in to mapping where they’ve been since installing the software, how many times and for how long. The Frequent Locations feature, which first appeared in iOS 7 Beta, is found in Settings. When enabled, it permits iOS devices to use GPS coordinates of the places you frequently visit, Apple explains.

The opt-in, consumer-facing feature is provided for the purposes of improving Maps (and other location-based products and services), providing useful location-related information and letting you check out a handy map history of the places you’ve visited. Here’s what you need to know about Frequent Locations in iOS 7…

Frequent Locations can be enabled in Settings → Privacy → Location Services → System Services.

If you want, you can opt-in separately to allow Apple to use your frequent location information to improve Maps. For users installing iOS 7 from scratch after a reset or restoring from a backup, Apple offers the option of enabling Frequent Locations and Improve Maps as part of the iOS 7 setup procedure.

According to Apple (emphasis mine):

Your iPhone will keep track of places you have recently been, as well as how often and when you visited them, in order to learn places that are significant to you.

This data is kept solely on your device and will not be sent to Apple without your consent. It will be used to provide you with personalized services, such as predictive traffic routing.

Choosing Improve Maps gives Apple the permission to correlate coordinates obtained through Location Services with the street address associated with your Apple ID to help improve Maps and other Apple location-based products and services.

Turning on Frequent Locations enables Apple to “better approximate the geographic location of that and other addresses,” the company explains. In other words, iOS 7 can tell you exactly when you left your house today, how long you’ve been at work and what restaurants you frequent most.

You can change your address on file using Apple’s My Apple ID web page.

It’s worth reminding everyone Apple is already collecting your location information if you have Location Services turned on in Settings (below).

iOS 7 (Settings, Privacy, location Services 002)

As has been the case before, the geographical coordinates Apple collects are kept on the device in an anonymous form. As seen on a pair of screenies top of post, you can easily wipe out your location history cache by tapping Clear History in the Frequent Locations section of Settings.

And this is what the new location history interface looks like.

iOS 7 (Settings, Frequent Locations 003)

In addition to these newly added controls and the location history interface, the existing Privacy controls with granular location toggles in Settings provide additional control over which apps can access your location information (see below).

iOS 7 (Settings, Privacy, location Services 001)

Unfortunately, irresponsible, inaccurate and sensationalist reporting on the web concerning Frequent Locations seeks to manufacture another Locationgate where there’s none, potentially scaring ordinary users away, as Rene Ritchie who runs iMore pointed out in his piece titled ‘Internet Already Worried About iOS 7 Location Tracking, Fails To Learn From History’.

German website Protecus first explained how Frequent Locations in iOS 7 work without any of the ridiculous assumptions. The scare blew up into a meme after Charlie Warzel posted a piece titled ‘This Is What It Looks Like When Your Phone Tracks Your Every Move’ on BuzzFeed.

After enabling Frequent Locations, Warzel discovered his device recorded “a rather spotty but still somewhat astounding record” of his movements over the past six weeks.

The information isn’t always accurate, nor is it comprehensive — for instance, I’ve never been to a U.S. Army recruiting office, it just happens to be near my office — but for some locations, like my apartment, the records are accurate down to the hours and minutes I’ve spent there.

Apple confirmed to BuzzFeed that Frequent Locations is a consumer feature for iOS 7 and not a developer-only setting.

For what it’s worth, Warzel wraps up his piece by summarizing how making Frequent Locations easily available and nicely laid out is actually a “refreshing sign of transparency from Apple, but it’s also a difficult reminder of how comprehensive and invasive our data trail can be”.

In reality, mapping a history of the locations you’ve frequented in the past is simply an extension of the location gathering opt-in the iPhone has had for years. In the interest of transparency, Apple has opted to add a nice interface for browsing your location history in iOS 7, which can only be a good thing.

By no means does the Frequent Locations feature extend the range of location data being collected. As blogger Alex Heath wrote, Frequent Locations in iOS 7 is “a reminder of how much we trust Apple with tracking us”.

Google Now (turn of location)

Android’s been capturing users GPS location and recording it on Google’s servers for quite some time. On top of that, mobile apps and mapping tools increasingly track our movements, with our consent.

For instance, Google Now on Android and iOS (pictured above) relies on your location data in order to serve relevant, contextual and timely reminders about your upcoming activities, schedule and events around you.

Again, Frequent Locations is a consumer-facing, opt-in feature in iOS 7.

It’s not enabled by default. Furthermore, Improve Maps or Frequent Locations can be turned off at any time under Settings → Privacy → Location Services → System Services → Frequent Locations.

With that in mind, any notion that Apple is tracking your location without permission is patently false, regardless of what you read on the web.

Which brings me to my question: will you be enabling Frequent Locations in iOS 7?

  • phuoc

    NO

  • Yunsar

    Is this for non-GPS devices as well? I don’t have it on
    my iPod.

    • Sure, the feature retrieves your geolocation via iOS Location Services, which in turn uses GPS (where available) along with crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower locations to determine your device’s approximate location.

      • Yunsar

        I can’t seem to find it on my iPod. Is it only in the US?

      • Alex Marwaha

        I can’t seem to find it either. I’m on an iPod 5th gen. In the USA.

    • No, I don’t think this works for non-cellular devices

      • Harsh Sac

        Not logical sir, (no offense)
        But the mapping software’s use the GPS modules for the acuracy of the devices’ location
        I don’t know or think that I am 100% right but that is my logic
        If the maps use the Wi-Fi or cellular connection solely then why need of GPS
        Please correct me if I am wrong

  • Yes, I already have turned Frequent Locations on on my iPhone 5 running iOS 7 beta. I’m just not paranoid enough I guess. As much as I tried to, I can’t think of one reason why I’d be worried about having my location recorded on Apple’s servers. I don’t have anything to hide and even in case of a security breach, what are hackers going to do with my frequent locations? Try to meet me there to tell me they know where I am?

    I totally respect people’s choice not to turn this on, but if Frequent Locations can make my device smarter and deliver more accurate information, then I’m all in.

    • Chris Gilmore

      THANK YOU.

  • Gorgonphone

    eh….

  • NSA would surely love this feature for “security” reasons…definitely not enabling it, if I ever go to iOS 7…

    • felixtaf

      NSA NSA NSA.. Why we shud be worried about our location when we have nothing to hide?

      • Can I see your credit-card bills for the last year? If you have nothing to hide, that means you are willing to let me photograph you naked. And I get full rights to that photograph-so I can show it to your neighbors.

        It’s not about having anything to hide; it’s about things not being anyone else’s business.

      • felixtaf

        Explain what these has to do with my comment about location… Please…

      • My whereabouts shouldn’t be anyone’s business. Worst case scenario; malicious hacker breaks into Apple’s server, hijacks the data and now knows your movement pattern. When you and your neighbours are out of the house, plan an attack.

        Values change, the data doesn’t. In that scenario, the data value went from “map improvement” to “attack planner”. I’d rather be safe than sorry…

        There are several other ways to improve mapping besides 24/7 tracking of the user…best would be if they simply provide a quick option during navigation to start tracing your vehicle’s movement in order to draw road corrections on the map, ’cause there’s less possibility of me stopping on the side of the road to correct a map problem.

      • Rowan09

        I agree people’s lives should be private but when you walk around with a GPS in your pocket or on your hip you accept that you don’t want to be really private. How do you know about improving mapping? This is a feature you can turn off so you can do so but at least we know it exist unlike Googles pass practices of collect people’s location without them knowing. I’m for privacy but once I open my life up with a Facebook account, twitter, etc I give up some of that right and its the same with a smartphone.

      • “I agree people’s lives should be private but when you walk around with a GPS in your pocket or on your hip you accept that you don’t want to be really private”

        Lol, says who? It’s this type of “I’ll bend over” attitude that encourages these privacy invasion acts. They’ll only go as far as you let them. TomTom’s GPSs from 2007 were pocketable, just as accurate as my iPhone’s GPS, yet they never created any 24/7 record of my whereabouts.

        “How do you know about improving mapping?”

        It’s common sense; if a GPS app like TomTom can track your car’s movement along a journey, they could as well implement a simple quick-map-fix feature that does the same, track your car’s movement. Coding isn’t magic you know, it’s all logic. Possible solution would be the driver double tapping the navigation screen to start/end the map correction.

        “This is a feature you can turn off”

        Not that I have any plans to move to iOS 7 (cracked all my apps as they are now so I can easily restore to them), but I sure hope it’s a turn-off-completely option, and not just a partially-turn-off option like the government amber alerts in iOS 6….

      • dpacemaker

        They already know everything, so he is just a paranoid person. I’m not a criminal so I’m sure that after looking into my life for five minutes the NSA shelved my file and will never look at it again. I have the frequent locations on because its very helpful with traffic. Furthermore it also remembers when you go. On Sundays around 1 I go to a family dinner. At 12:45 it pops up in my Today view of the time it will take. Once I get there it’s gone, but around 6:15 it pops up because I leave around 6:30-6:45. I think it’s a great and wonderful feature. Furthermore you can use it without giving Apple your info, so it’s much better than Google Now. As for some Malicious hacker stealing your phone and knowing your schedule, get over yourself MrElect, your not that important.

      • Jonathan

        I think he’s trying to say its about principle.

      • TeddyBearStand

        LOL at naked pictures.

  • pauleebe

    This feature truly is amazing. In the morning, I can check how long my commute will take at a simple swipe down into notification center. Lets me know if I need to chow down or can take it slow at breakfast.

  • Alex Marwaha

    I cant find it all. please help. I went under settings, privacy, location services, system services, and I got nothing to do with improve maps or frequent locations. plz help

    • Alex Marwaha

      im on an ipod 5th gen.

  • Nico Mana-ay

    Not workin for non-cellular device

  • Shane Sparky

    It’s just their version of Google Now. If I notice it drains my battery too much ill turn it off. I’m guessing it will given it uses GPS. How often does it turn on? If its constant wouldn’t someone’s battery be dead in under a few hours?

  • Mikeylud

    This was working for me in beta 2, and 3. But stopped working on 4 then 5. It was awesome. Telling me how long my commute would be

    • Dalton

      Working for me, i just went to the “Today” tab and it said how long my commute would be. Its a very helpful feature, and it’s not a separate app like Google Now. I just think some people need to calm down on this whole thing, if its stored on the Device and you opt OUT of ” Send diagnostics to apple” then unless your device is stolen, or someone else got a hold of it, how would anyone get the info if Apple was hacked?

      • Mikeylud

        That’s weird. Mine doesn’t show up anymore under “today”. I’ve tried turn frequent off then back on. But doesn’t pop up anymore.

  • JulianZHuang

    Why not? I don’t mind.

  • Jon Lindstrom

    Definitely will be on.

    Better personalized info for me based on location is fantastic. No problems here.

  • It will make your phone a lot smarter. Apple doesn’t care where you go. Jony Ive isn’t watching.

  • Yassine yassine

    I regret installing this update. The beta 4 release was by far more stable then this one.
    If only there is way to go back in time.
    But I guess this is the reason why they call it beta 🙂

  • OhSixTJ

    Are the screens for settings and all that gonna be white? That’s gonna look like crap on my black phone.

  • mav3rick

    Many are taking iDevices into their bedrooms. If nothing to hide, why not turn on the cameras then and start streaming online?

    Let others record your location. They know every move of you. But you know any of their moves?

    Let’s help them with our location every minute! They’re sitting on a pile of cash, making profit 60% on their devices and 200-300% on accessories, but they still need help…

    • ingen

      The difference between people finding my location and streaming video in the bedroom, is that I can charge people for the latter. Pretty huge difference…

  • Harrison Grant

    Actually it is enabled by default. Running iOS 7 GM.

  • Don

    I have a question. How long do you have to be in a location for that location to show up in the history?

  • Finn Sloss

    I do not believe I Opted-In to Frequent Locations, unless I autonomously clicked through it in the “Welcome to iOS7” screens. It does appear to be a battery hogger, and I’m so far not aware of the benefits it brings, if any.

  • iphoneDummy

    is this file saved in itunes backup? does anyone know?

    • lac

      yes look for file number that starts with 4096c.

  • Limba

    I like it cuz I need to fill out my mileage reports and go so many places for work that if I’m not always up to date on my calendar I can revisit my info plus any questions from my boss can be proven. However it doesn’t let me go back very far can I change that or find it somewhere else.?