How to make sure your iPhone isn't tracking you

By Tera Roberson - Special Projects Producer, Bill Spencer - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - It used to be if you wanted to spy on someone, you'd go to a spy store and spend hundreds of dollars on surveillance gear.

Private investigator Mecca Robinson of Spy Emporium in Houston's Montrose area, knows this fact all too well. Day in and day out, she sells customers GPS trackers and surveillance cameras they can use to track down someone else.

"When people come here it is pretty much so all about tracking. Whether it be tracking of the vehicle, or it be tracking of a cellphone," said Robinson.

But did you know your iPhone is already tracking every move you make—24 hours a day—then recording, and storing a complete history of every place you go...cataloging how long you stay, and how often you go there. And the information is all clearly spelled out, right there under locations in your phone's settings.

We hit the streets of Houston and talked to iPhone users to find out if they had any idea their every move was being tracked, and more importantly, stored. Not only were the people we showed this feature to unaware this setting was activated on their phones, they couldn't believe they were being tracked without even knowing it.

Abigail Serratta's home was clearly labeled as "home" in her list of frequent locations in her iPhone, a fact she found unsettling. "It is very, very surprising that they have everything, because I didn't know that was possible. Stunning, is I believe the word for it," said Serratta.

Serratta continued, "Falling into the wrong hands, I guess it could be pretty alarming."

Perry Cameron is a pharmaceutical salesman who worries what all this information could be used for if his phone were stolen or if Apple's system hacked.

"I'm seeing all the places, I work as a pharmaceutical (representative), I'm seeing all the streets that I go to my doctor's offices on.  I see every place I've been literally," said Cameron. "They could rob me. They know what time I leave, what time I get back on a daily basis."

But this tracking feature is more than frightening if your iPhone falls into the hands of the wrong person.

At "The Door,"  a shelter for battered and abused women and their children, a place where women are fleeing violent men, the executive director of the shelter, Judy Cox, was stunned to learn this location tracker also kept a history of frequent locations, allowing anyone to know a person's routine.

"For our women, this is, this a disaster," said Cox.

She calls this "smart phone" location tracker the ultimate tool for anyone trying to hunt someone else down.

"We had a lady come to the shelter from a different town, where the abuser had found her and surrounded the shelter, and they had to get the swat team to come in."

"And she keeps saying how does he find me? Now we know," said Cox.

Apple says it keeps track of your frequent places and how often you visit them, in order to find out what place are "significant" to you. Apple further explains the data is kept solely on your device and is not sent to the company without your consent. But, rather, will only be used to provide you with personalized services, such as predictive traffic routing.

However, the power to prevent your personal information from falling into the wrong hands if your iPhone is stolen or the system is hacked, is right at your fingertips. You can disable your "frequent locations" feature by following these quick steps:

  • In your phone's settings, go into locations
  • Then scroll down to and tap on system services
  • Scroll down to and tap on frequent locations
  • Scroll down and tap, to clear your history
  • Then, go back up to the frequent locations tab, and set the button to off

For Perry Cameron, being able to disable this feature provided him with a sense of security. "I'm safe," he said. "Man, I'm glad I ran into y'all. It must have been a blessing from God, me running into you. I needed to know that."

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