Design for location privacy

Description: When someone uses iPhone or iPad, they have control over how their location is shared with the apps they use — including sharing an approximate location rather than precise coordinates. This creates a more private experience across their device, and it impacts all apps that rely on location data or use it to supplement certain elements of their experience. Discover how the designers of the Maps app redesigned elements within the Maps interface to provide people with more privacy. Learn tips, techniques, and strategies for creating an interface where people can share location data comfortably and confidently.


In iOS 14, Core Location allows users to share their approximate location with apps instead of their real location.

This is a huge change for apps like Maps. If your app also requires precise location, this talk covers some ways to adapt.

If this is the first time you're hearing about approximate location, you may want to first watch:

Designing for Location Privacy

  1. Prioritize user control
  2. Build trust through transparency
  3. Offer proportional value

1. Prioritize user control

Annotating Approximate Location on Maps

Today, a pulsing blue dot represents a precise location.

Apple Maps now uses a shaded circular area to indicate approximate location. As the user zooms in, this overlay disappears so map information is easier to read.

Before, Apple Maps used precise location data to calculate the estimated arrival time.

Apple decided that calculating this data is not feasible with approximate location. This feature is not critical, so they removed it for approximate location users.


  • Don't require precise location
  • Replace precise data with approximate where possible
  • Remove non-essential uses of precise location

2. Build trust through transparency

Requesting data

Communicate clearly with people about what data your app uses and how that data is used. Use clear and precise language when requesting data. Here's how Maps does it:

Notice how this message explains what kind of data Maps needs and the value that data provides.

Communicating results

For people who choose to share approximate location in Maps, there is a status bar at the top of the map. When people first launch Maps, the status bar is strong and prominent. This reminds users of past decisions and gives them direct access to control the setting.

Once people interact elsewhere in the app, the visual treatment reduces in prominence. This way, users still get the benefit of transparency and control without being distracted from other functionality.


  • Invest in writing and communication
  • Make status easy to access
  • Allow users to change their mind

3. Offer Proportional Value

Some features absolutely require precise location data, and that's okay. Ensure these features provide value in exchange for the personal data they require.

In Maps, turn-by-turn directions require precise location. When people indicate they want directions, Apple asks for one-time access to precise location. Apple asks as close to giving them directions as possible.

For a walkthrough of what this looks like for approximate location users, jump to 5:45 in the video.


  • Only ask for precise location when you really need it
  • Request precise location in response to user action
  • Position the request close to the value it provides

Missing anything? Corrections? Contributions are welcome 😃