Applications can use Windows 10’s location services to view your physical location. You’ll see a system tray icon that reads “Your location has recently been accessed” or “Your location is currently in use” when this happens, and it can get a little annoying.
If you don’t like this, you can disable location access entirely, control which applications have permission to view your location, or just hide the icon so it doesn’t keep reappearing and distracting you.
How and Why Are Apps Viewing My Location?
Apps use location services to discover your physical location. For example, if you open the Maps app included with Windows 10, it will access your location and display it on the map. If you open the Weather app, it can access your location and display the weather in your area. Cortana accesses your location and uses it to display relevant information. The Camera app can access your location to add geolocation information to photos you take.
If you have a Windows tablet, it may have a GPS hardware sensor, and Windows can use that to find your location. However, Windows can also use the names of nearby Wi-Fi networks along with data from a Wi-Fi network database to triangulate your location. This is how Windows 10 will find your location on most computers without GPS sensors. Both Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS can also track your location in this way.
This particular message will only appear when apps are accessing your location via the Windows location services platform. This mainly includes apps that come with Windows 10 and apps you download from the Windows Store. There’s nothing stopping traditional Windows desktop apps from accessing your location with this service, but most don’t. Google Chrome, for example, uses its own location services feature. You won’t see the Windows Location icon when you give a website access to your location in Chrome, as Chrome is accessing the list of nearby Wi-Fi networks directly and determining your location with Google’s own location services platform.
How to Prevent Your Location From Being Accessed
If you’re fast enough, you can click the location icon that appears in your notification area and select “Open Location Privacy Settings.” However, we’ve found that the “Your location has recently been accessed” icon can quickly vanish.
Thankfully, you can also access this settings screen normally. Open the Start menu and select “Settings.” Navigate to Privacy > Location in the Settings app.
There are two ways to disable location services here. You can disable location services for all user accounts on your Windows system, or for just your specific user account.
To disable location access for all user accounts, click the “Change” button and set the “Location for this device” slider to “Off.” To disable location access for just your user account, just set the Location slider under the Change button to “Off.”
Even if you disable location access here, some built-in Windows 10 services will still be allowed to access your location. In particular, the Find My Device and Wi-Fi Sense features will still have access to your location, if you have them enabled. Windows desktop applications that use other methods to access your location can continue to do so.
How to Control Which Apps Can Access Your Location
If you’re fine with apps accessing your location, but want to block certain apps from doing so, you can. Head to the Settings > Privacy > Location screen in the Settings app. Scroll down to the bottom of the screen and you’ll see a list of apps that can access your location. Set apps to “Off” and they won’t be allowed to access your location.
Remember, this only controls apps that use the Windows location platform to access your location. For example, Google Chrome can still provide your location to websites that request it. You’ll have to disable these other geolocation features in each individual app’s settings–for example, you could disable location access or manage the list of websites that can access your physical location from within Google Chrome.
How to Hide the Location Icon
If you don’t mind apps accessing your location but would rather the “Location” icon go away so you don’t see it all the time, you can just hide the icon.
Open the Settings app from your Start menu and navigate to System > Notifications & Actions. Click “Select which icons appear on the taskbar,” and scroll down to the “Location Notification” option in the list. Switch it to “Off”. It’ll be hidden behind the arrow in your notification area, like many other system tray icons are.
You can also check the “Turn system icons on or off” option from System > Notifications & Actions. If you disable Location there, it’ll disappear entirely, instead of hiding behind the little arrow on your taskbar. However, on our machine, that option was grayed out, so your mileage may vary. You may have to just settle for hiding it.
You may also see a similar icon on Windows 7, 8, or 8.1. These used previous versions of Windows location services. On Windows 8, you can control the list of apps that have access to your location in PC Settings. On Windows 7, you can open the Start menu, type “sensors” into the search box, launch the “Location and Other Sensors” tool that appears, and use it to disable location access.