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What is Geolocation?

Geolocation refers to the use of location technologies such as GPS or IP addresses to identify and track the whereabouts of connected electronic devices. Geolocation is often used on portable devices to track  the movements and location of people and for surveillance. Some examples of how geolocation is used in the financial services industry include1:

Payments. Some financial institutions have mobile apps that can track the location of a customer who has geolocation enabled, allowing the financial institution to match the location of a customer’s phone with the location of a payment card transaction; a discrepancy may indicate payment card theft, and swift action can be taken to prevent transactions and minimize service disruption.

Insurance claims processing. Insurance claims adjusting apps can use geolocation technology to substantiate a policyholder’s location and minimize the number of fraudulent claims the insurer receives. A visual claims platform allows policyholders to work with their insurance agents using web-based real-time communications platforms to evaluate the extent of loss and to make claim determinations.

Banking. A beacon is a small Bluetooth radio transmitter that transmits Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) signals. Bluetooth beacon geolocation technology can allow customers to access branch ATMs with their mobile phones instead of with their ATM cards after business hours and can be used inside branches to improve customer service.

Geolocation technology can also be used by customers to “check-in” at places on social media, find directions to places and items, receive special offers, and more. While this technology can be useful for both businesses and customers, it is important to know how to make sure that geolocation data is shared deliberately and securely. Geotagging refers to the storage of location data in image files; many of us share photos without realizing that we are also sharing this information in the image file, which could pose risks for privacy and security. The following are tips for preventing the unintentional sharing of geolocation data:

Use antitracking solutions. Various types of software and browser extensions have features that can identify and block trackers on websites.

SNS geotagging. Disable any geo-tag features from your social media accounts.

Turn off geo-tracking or the transfer of data about your location. Block the function from your devices, including browsers, phones, operating systems, and applications. You should be able to ‘disable location services’ and enable ‘do not track’ feature.

Monitor DNS-Leakage. Regularly check your DNS service for the leakage of personal data.  Domain Name Server is a system in which local device addresses turn into IP addresses that other servers and routers can use to send and receive information. You can search “DNS leak testing” to find helpful services.

Turn off the GPS function on phone cameras and digital cameras. Turning off the GPS function will prevent your image files from containing location data.

Use Virtual Private Network (VPNs). A VPN encrypts your data and sends it through secure remote servers, which masks your real IP address.

1 Frankenfield, 2021, “Geolocation: What it is, How it Works, Examples”