You may or may not know, but your iPhone secretly keeps a list of all the locations you frequently visit. This feature is called Significant Locations. While some iPhone users think it’s helpful, others see it as a security risk.
We decided to dig deeper and discover how Significant Locations work and whether this feature is something you need to worry about
What Is iOS’s Significant Locations Feature?
Significant Locations is a feature on iPhones that keeps a log of all the places you frequently visit. This is so your iPhone can get a better understanding of where you like to go to provide you with relevant information and suggestions.
Apple uses Significant Locations to try to predict where you’re going that day. If you head to a relative’s house every Saturday, you may see that their location is at the top of your Apple Maps suggestions for that day. You might also get notifications about traffic and weather at that location.
Locations are only stored on your device, not in iCloud. Significant Locations is also something you can opt-out of if you feel this is a violation of your privacy.
How Does iOS’s Significant Locations Feature Work?
Significant Locations works using the GPS on your iPhone. With this GPS, it can track locations you frequently visit, like your workplace. It can also find places you like to go frequently, like your favorite restaurant or a relative’s house.
The algorithm that determines this seems to be based on the frequency you attend a location and whether you’re there for an extended period of time. It all happens in the background, without any notifications or action from you.
How Do You View and Turn Off Significant Locations?
Significant Locations are in your iPhone settings. If you want to see a list of your Significant Locations, or turn it off, head to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Settings > Significant Locations.
Here, you can see your most recent records. You can see how long you were at a certain location and if that location has a name in your Maps app. You can also see how many records you have.
At the bottom of the page, you can tap Clear History to erase your Significant Locations and start over. If you prefer to turn it off, you can toggle the green button at the top to disable Significant Locations. If you turn it off, consider also disabling individual app tracking.
Is Significant Locations a Security Risk?
According to Apple, Significant Locations uses advanced encryption to keep them private. Not even Apple can see your locations. Apple claims it does this for your iPhone to learn what locations are significant to you.
But why is this necessary? With Apple Maps, you can enter your home and work addresses, as well as your favorite locations. So why Significant Locations? It appears it just helps your iPhone show you more relevant info. For example, knowing your daily commute can help Apple give you relevant traffic information.
While this might be helpful for some, others fear that the risk of this info getting compromised is too great. If you feel unsure about Significant Locations, you can turn it off. If you are concerned about security, you can also turn off Location Services.
Should You Disable Significant Locations?
For the time being, it appears Significant Locations is safe and not a security risk. However, if someone does get into your iPhone they can view locations you frequently visit, which is a privacy and potentially a security risk. While not possible now, it might be possible for third-party apps to access your significant locations in the future.
Luckily, you can turn off Significant Locations so you don’t have to worry about this. If this is something you worry about, turning it off won’t change much. However, leaving it on can help your iPhone perform at its best. As always, the choice is yours.