On a recent episode of Atlanta, a plot point centered around a character losing his phone and not being able to find it because he’d turned off the Find My Phone feature. While this may have been a device to heighten the stakes, the character brought up some real concerns. When you have the feature turned on, your location is constantly being tracked.
Today, we have given up a lot of our privacy for convenience. But is it worth risking being tracked for the sake of convenience? Your renters insurance covers your phone against theft, so the financial impact is minor. Furthermore, with everything backed up in the cloud, setting up a new phone with all your data is very easy.
Is there any real reason to risk being tracked by enabling Find My Phone?
Now, the Find My Phone app is not the only one that keeps track of your location. Any other app can do so if you grant it the permission. Most people allow their GPS apps to track their location even in the background. Having location services turned on at all means running the risk of being tracked.
Other security vulnerabilities include having Bluetooth enabled and keeping WiFi on in public. If you’re concerned about your security, you should keep all of these functions disabled when you don’t need them.
Find My Phone is perhaps the app that creates the biggest vulnerability, though, considering that it needs to be on in the background in order to be at all useful. The security-conscious choice would seemingly be to disable Find My Phone. However, there is an important feature that throws a spanner into the works.
Find My Phone does not just track the location of your phone. The details will depend on the phone manufacturer, but most have the same features. You can use the app to erase your phone remotely. If you’re using Apple products, you can use the app to track and do the same for any other devices in the ecosystem.
This is extremely useful. As we’ve mentioned, your phone being stolen in 2022 might have no financial impact on you. It may barely inconvenience you. However, it puts you at risk of data theft. If someone gets access to the data on your phone, they can use it to steal money or even your identity.
A six-digit pin (or biometric capabilities) can keep most thieves out, but there is software which manages to break into some phones. A modern thief understands that many phones will be useless if they are unable to get past the lock screen and many are therefore prepared for this.
Erasing your phone when you realize it has been stolen is extremely important, but if your Find My Phone app is turned off, you may be unable to do so. Is this enough of a reason to keep the app enabled?
The possibility of someone stealing your identity using your phone is scary, but it is also very unlikely. The chances that your phone will be stolen are very low. The chances that the thief wants anything more than to use the phone or sell it are themselves very low. Furthermore, as a security-conscious person, your data on your phone will be difficult to access due to passwords and 2-factor verification.
On the other hand, having location services switched on at all times leaves you vulnerable all the time. If someone is able to access that location data by hacking into your phone (or through government surveillance), they will know exactly where you are and where you have been. This could be very sensitive information.
All in all, it is probably not worth it to have Find My Phone enabled. However, if you keep location services on anyway and give apps like Google Maps access to it, you might as well keep Find My Phone on, as your location is already vulnerable to being tracked.