Where’s Waldo?

By Esmeralda Peña

Flashback to your childhood with your nose deep in a ‘Where’s Waldo’ and ‘I SPY’ book.  Image having a simple ‘GPS’ locator to find Waldo or find tiny hidden items. Our childhood would have sped through those books in no time at all. On the upside, you wouldn’t agonize in straining your eyes over finding Waldo or the tiny seahorse hidden in the picture. On the downside, there would be no self-gratification of finding Waldo or the tiny seahorse on your own. Thankfully there is no device, as far as I know, that would help find Waldo or tiny hidden items besides your own two eyes. However, almost all of us now have something that does help with finding real life people and places: smartphones.

Smartphone and Applications

It is estimated that there are 1 billion smartphone devices in the world as of today. Of the 1 billion phones the most common brands are Apple, Samsung, Nokia, Blackberry, and HTC. While each has its own properties that make them unique, they are all identical in the use of devices such as GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. Smartphone users do not give much thought to having these devices on, especially since so many apps rely on GPS or Wi-Fi.  

In many cases Wi-Fi is the ideal device to use in terms of preserving battery life and data usage, but once you become mobile you must switch to GPS. Both Wi-Fi and GPS allows you to use navigation apps, productivity apps, social network apps and transportation apps such as Google Maps, Dropbox, Facebook, Instagram, Viber, and Uber. These apps can be very convenient when on the go and limits the need for other devices. So in other words, having a smartphone with Wi-Fi and/or GPS can be cost efficient since it can now replace devices you might have had to buy if not for the smartphone. Although there are many positive aspects to constantly having Wi-Fi and GPS on your smartphone, many users don’t realize that there are some downfalls to constantly having those devices on your phone.

Tracking Your Every Move

While ‘Big Brother’ has been a conspiracy theory of the government, that idea is not as farfetched as we once thought. Now in day, this theory is highly probable especially for people who have smartphones. Several apps now require internet connection and often ask for your location for better precision. Google Maps requires GPS to give turn-by-turn directions. Other apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and Viber also allow you to ‘check-in’ to a location and share it with friends and family. Even more so, any picture with anything in the background- Snapchat- can give hints as to where you are also. Social network apps that have access to your location can be a good thing. An example would be the new Facebook feature that allows you to let family and friends know you’re OK if a natural disaster occurs near you. It seems that at any given time, at least one app that has access to your location requires either GPS or Wi-Fi. So how do we limit the amount of access our devices have to our current locations?

Limiting Your Tracking

Several options are available to limiting our smartphones access to location, but completely cutting off ourselves from being tracked is highly improbable. For Apple products, users can decide which apps have access to GPS or running data, but would have to manually go into each app to turn off the location setting. However, once location is turned off, the app could work differently as to when it had location. Some apps work best with location on, but there are other viable options to apps that do not require location. For example, if you do not want Google Maps to know your every move, you can download an offline map that only offers an overview of an area and does not offer turn-by-turn navigation. So if you do decide to turn off your location and access to GPS to any particular apps, ‘Big Brother’ still has tricks up its sleeve to know your every move.

Once you’ve turned off your location and limited your access to GPS, what can go wrong with using Wi-Fi? Well if you’re an Apple user, just follow these simple steps:

Settings → Privacy → Location Services → System Services → Frequent Locations.

If you do not have a phone with you, allow me to elaborate what you will find here. Once you’ve reached Frequent Locations, there will be a list of Address you have used Wi-Fi, the number of visits you’ve done, AND the time and date you were there. Now that you have this information it is up to you whether you want Frequent Locations to be turned on or off. And let’s not forget the handy dandy Find My iPhone app and GPS tracker available for several smartphone devices.

So as long as you have a smartphone on you, your location will always be tracked. You have the ability to limit the apps that you want to share your location. I wonder if Waldo has ever owned a smartphone. 


6 thoughts on “Where’s Waldo?

  1. Even though I don’t think much about mobile communication technology (I own an outdated smartphone that I mostly use for entertainment), your article brings up important issues about privacy that more people should know about. While I’m aware that we’re all under some varying form of surveillance, it’s still a bit unsettling to know that a person’s location and movement could be so easily tracked through a device that’s relatively innocuous in design.

    Still, I appreciate that you shared tips on how to limit tracking by disabling certain features (it would’ve been interesting to see what kinds of steps you’d have to take on other devices than what you described, considering different interfaces or system layouts). But I also wonder how effective these tips are in consideration of changing technology, not to mention the sheer resources “Big Brother” has at its hypothetical disposal (a paranoid, but interesting thought).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. With Senioritous creeping up, I decided to delete apps like Instagram and Snap chat off my phone. I realized that they could track my location and still wonder what else can still be tracking me. I also went in and changed the data settings for some other apps.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s worth turning a critical eye on the “big brother” aspects of GPS technologies, especially where safety is concerned. I wonder, all you readers out there, how do you determine which apps you’ll use? Which apps get to track your location, and which don’t? Or, have you never thought about it? What say you?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This was an interesting read. Like Dr. Martin mentioned above, there really is a big brother aspect when using some seemingly more efficient has and tracking devices. You may have less money to spend and a more adaptive alternative to buying a GPS separately, but you may also set yourself up for protection plans or other privacy protection your phone may not be able to provide.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is such a grey read…I can’t even begin to tell you how freaked out I was when I found out I could track my location on Instagram and that every pic I had taken or posted with the app had a geotag. You better bet I turned all of my locations off on every app after that.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks so much for posting this. I made sure to check my settings. I think I allow Facebook to show the city I’m in, but not the specific location (I hope). I don’t want anyone being able to figure out where I am at all times, as I think that’s weird. I’ve heard you can drop a pin to show someon your location if need be, but I’ve never done that. I turn off locations except for Maps, I think, though I’m not entirely sure to be honest. I’m going to check that now, as this has made me a little paranoid.


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