Your iPhone tracks every place you visit. Here’s how to see the map.

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Significant Locations
Bubbles show you where you have visited.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Your iPhone knows where you are, and it remembers where you have been. It keeps a record of your frequent hangouts — aka “significant locations” — and uses this data to make location-based suggestions using Siri and to power other features. Don’t panic, though: This data is kept on your phone, not collected by Apple.

Maybe you want to switch it off anyway, though. Perhaps you’re having an affair and don’t want your suspicious spouse to find out where you and your lover hook up. Or you’re an undercover cop and don’t want your visits to the police station to show up on your phone. Today we’ll see how to access your recent locations data, remove it, and switch it off altogether.

How to find significant locations on your iPhone

Location

Significant Locations settings’ are buried pretty deep. You’ll find them in Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services > Significant Locations. You must authenticate yourself to see them, using your passcode, Touch ID or Face ID. Once you’re in, you’ll see a list of the towns and cities you have visited. Each one will have the number of sub-locations, and the date or date range of your visits.

The city you live in will probably have the most entries, but you may be surprised at which other spots have been recorded. To view the locations on a map, just tap the name of a city.

The data can be either fascinating or scary, depending on your point of view. You’ll see a map showing circles indicating your most-visited locations. Below the map is a list, ordered by frequency of visit. Tap on one of these locations and you’ll see yet another list (and map) detailing the exact times of your visits.

How to remove significant locations from your iPhone

There are two ways to remove significant locations: the nuclear way, and the surgical way. At any spot in these lists of data, you can tap the Edit button at top right, and then remove entries. Depending on how deep you are in the list hierarchy, you can separately delete individual visits to a single location or remove an entire city from your history.

In our example of an undercover cop, the officer might choose to just remove the police station visits and leave the rest, although that means removing each and every future visit as well to stay “clean.”

How to switch off iPhone location tracking entirely

The nuclear option is to switch off significant locations. This is done by toggling the button at the top of the significant locations settings. However, if you do this, you lose out on some iPhone features. For example, the Maps widgets won’t work properly without access to this data. As ever, you must decide if the tradeoff is worth it. Given that accessing this data requires physical access to your iPhone (or iPad), as well as your passcode or fingerprint, you may consider the data safe. Or not.

Like a diary

For some folks, the significant locations data could be a fun way to see what they were up to in the past. For others, it could even prove useful, helping to remember client visits or track down that amazing restaurant you visited a few times while on vacation. Alternatively, the very existence of this kind of information on your iPhone might terrify you. Go take a look at what your iPhone has recorded, and make up your own mind.

  • Leovinius

    Didn’t know all this. I did wonder why my phone thought there was a dietician at my parents’ house, but it seems Apple simply finds the nearest registered business. Which may explain why it thinks I visit would ever visit a ‘head shop’.

    • Yeah Google does the same thing in Google Maps timelines. Its either the nearest business or just Vauguly describes the City, unless its your home and it’s entered into your Google settings. It will use that as the location.

  • Ron Gilbert

    Mine shows repeated visits to businesses that I simply drive by routinely, but it says I’ve been home only once in the past 5 weeks – a time period when I was away from for only a few isolated days. It’s weirdly inaccurate.

  • Oh Snap

    ( Given that accessing this data requires physical access to your iPhone
    (or iPad), as well as your passcode or fingerprint, you may consider the
    data safe. Or not.)

    If someone already has gotten into your phone and can get this far, it is wildly unsafe data.

    • Paul Foster

      If someone has got into your account, and been able to set up a replica device, then data is also unsafe.

      • Julio

        This data isn’t included in device backups. It is one of few things that has to repopulate on its own after a restore, so even replica devices wouldn’t have access to this.

  • Ram Bhat

    One can just leave it as it is and don’t disable. This might help a common man in his normal life, in situations of emergency such as accidents, heart attack, shoot-out, kidnap, etc. Common man shouldnt worry too much of a privacy. Hyper secrecy is for people involved in drugs, murders, illicit relations, etc. where they don’t want to leave a trace of their locations.

    Please correct me if wrong.

    • PingNemesis

      Common man should most definitely worry about privacy. Just because I do not want my personal details to be in another entity’s hands does not mean I am a criminal or involved in something illicit – it is data about me and I should get to chose what gets collected and why. To be fair though in this case, I do appreciate the fact that there is a way to turn it off.

  • tonyspencer4

    Well if you’re paranoid, go ahead, disable useful functions. If you travel, particularly to different countries, it’s like Location Manager on acid.

    It’s what the data is used for: mostly ads. Switch those off, and life’s cool. At least with Apple, not Google.

    After all, if you have any phone, your Government, NSA, GCHQ, and others are tracking you anyway.

  • Marcusjolaine

    Did anybody else’s phone show locations you’ve never been? Mine show’s two east coast locations and one China location. Any ideas why that is?