Is your Mac tracking your travels? See what it knows about you

Your Apple MacBook may secretly be recording your every move. Here is how to see what information it has stored.

Our every move is being tracked by something, someone, somewhere and you may be surprised by what is known about you. Your Apple Mac and iPhone for example, track your location. See what they know.

When you start up your Mac or when you wake it from sleep mode, one of the first things it does is to try to determine where in the world you are located. Once it knows, it then monitors how long you stay there and records the information.

When you move, it records the new location and the length of time you spend there.

An iMac is a desktop computer and so it isn’t going to move much, so this really only affects MacBook users. If you travel with a MacBook, it may be recording your every move. Let’s see what it knows about you.

1 Click System Preferences on the Apple menu

System Preferences on the Apple menu on the Mac

2 You could search for ‘location’ in System Preferences if you were not sure where it is. It is actually in Security & Privacy, so click the icon to continue.

System Preferences on the Apple Mac

3 Select the Privacy tab at the top. To continue beyond this point you must click the padlock in the bottom left corner and enter your admin password.

Security and Privacy in System Preferences on the Apple Mac

4 scroll down the list on the right and click the Details button next to System Services.

Security and Privacy settings in System Preferences on the Apple Mac

5 Your location is monitored and the Mac tries to work out where you spend most of your time. This information is stored in Significant Locations. Click the Details button on the right.

Location services in System Preferences in macOS High Sierra

6 You will then see where your MacBook spends most of its time. Actually, it is not always correct. For example, it thinks I visited home 21 times in the last two months and visited a hotel 32 times.

Significant Locations in System Preferences on the Apple Mac

Oh dear, this is wrong. I take my MacBook home and charge it up overnight, but don’t always turn it on. This is why it does not record all the times I am at home.

The hotel it thinks I go to is actually the nearest significant location to where I really go. I am actually close, but in a different building. The locations it stores are therefore not quite accurate. Is the location information correct on your MacBook?

7 View the dates you were at each location and the time you arrived and left by expanding each location. When a location is selected, it shows a map on the right.

Significant Locations is where a MacBook records location information in macOS

  • Is the location tracking accurate? Not always, but it is usually close to where it actually is.
  • Is it useful? It could be used to find where a Mac is, such as a company tracking its MacBooks or an individual trying to locate a lost or stolen Mac.
  • Can anyone else see the information? The text at the top says it is encrypted and even Apple cannot read it.

If you are worried by it, click the Clear History button and then clear the tick against Significant Locations in step 5.

Location tracking is sometimes irritating, especially when it is wrong. The MacBook is better than some devices though. For example, half a mile from home is a restaurant and every time I arrive at home, my Android phone asks if I am at the restaurant and do I want to check in? It must think I eat there every day!

 

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