Instagram, Snapchat, and many other apps use your location for a variety of reasons. iPhone apps can also request your “Precise Location.” Contrary to what you may have heard, people can’t use this to see your exact location.
The misunderstanding comes from a series of viral posts on TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter about the “Precise Location” toggle in the iPhone settings. Some posts claim it “allows other people (criminals!) to see your exact location.” Sounds scary, right? It’s not true.
What Is “Precise Location” on iPhone?
The “Precise Location” feature was introduced in 2020’s iOS 14 update for better privacy. It is not new, as some of the posts claim. Previously, your precise location was the only location apps could see. iOS 14 made it possible to toggle that off and only give apps an approximate idea of your location.
When an iPhone app requests access to your location, you have the option to turn “Precise” off or on. You also have the option to grant the app access once, only while using the app, ask every time, when you share, or never. The permission pop-up looks like this:
However, since precise location was the only option before iOS 14, it’s the default for any app that hasn’t requested location access since then. If you’ve been using the same iPhone for a while, it’s probably on by default for a lot of apps. The good news is it’s easy to turn it off.
Why Does Instagram Need My Precise Location?
With that in mind, you might be wondering why Instagram and other social media apps need your precise location. In the case of Instagram, it doesn’t, but that doesn’t mean people have been able to see your exact location.
As Instagram explains, it uses your location when you tag places in your posts and stories or search for locations. It does not share your location with others unless you intentionally tag a post with a location, but that’s only the location you specifically choose.
The viral posts claim that if you have “Precise Location” enabled and you tag a general location, such as a city, people will be able to see your exact location on the map. That is simply not true. There is no difference in where you show up on the map with or without “Precise Location” enabled.
The “Precise Location” toggle simply allows Instagram to show locations that are closer to you when you are tagging a post. However, Instagram still works perfectly fine with “Precise Location” turned off. You can do that in Settings > Instagram > Location > Precise Location.
Location permission is one of those things that can be a bit scary. It’s natural to be skeptical of why an app might want to use your precise location. However, in most cases, it’s not being used to help other people stalk you. The most nefarious purpose is most likely personalized ads based on places you visit.