Apple knows where your router is – and here’s why it’s a problem

Research shows that Apple knows where your router is located, which may be a bigger problem than you think. We will tell you how to prevent that.

Apple knows where your router is

Researchers from the University of Maryland have made an interesting discovery, because Apple may know where the router is located in your home. Various Apple services use location determination. For example, Find My is available on iPhones, iPads, Macs and Apple Watches, Maps uses your location and your location is used to send an SOS emergency call.

The University of Maryland researchers may have discovered a problem with this location determination. That problem ensures that Apple knows where your router is located. And that’s not all, because this also gives unauthorized people access to the location of your router. This has to do with the way Apple determines your location, because it collects much more data than necessary.

iPhone wifi

Location determination via WiFi networks

Determining location or using the iPhone’s GPS signal consumes a lot of energy, which drains your phone’s battery faster. To prevent this, Apple is looking for other ways to determine your location. One of these is analyzing the WiFi networks in your area. Measuring the signals from surrounding networks determines the approximate location of your iPhone. Apple uses the routers in your area for this.

For example, Apple (and Google too) have their own database with active ones WiFi-based Positioning Systems (WPS). This is not surprising, because your location is determined through local networks. Researchers have discovered that Apple’s WPS not only sends a request to the nearest routers, but requests the location of as many as 400 networks near the iPhone.

The location of this large number of networks is then forwarded to Apple. Apple’s database contains the precise location of many routers. The researchers have calculated that approximately 3 million random networks are registered in the database. An additional 488 million have previously been used for location determination. There is a good chance that your router is known to Apple, even if you do not use an Apple device.

Amount of random networks believed to be included in Apple's database.
Amount of random networks believed to be included in Apple’s database according to the study.

So (you make an attempt) to prevent that

The advantage of these networks being registered with Apple is that your iPhone’s GPS is very accurate. For example, you can often see the location in Maps exactly to the meter, even if you have poor (mobile) reception. However, the researchers also mention a number of disadvantages, for example they were able to identify the Starlink network in Ukraine without any problems and analyze networks in the Gaza Strip. If that information falls into the wrong hands, a lot can go wrong, according to the researchers.

For the average user it will not be a huge problem that the router is known to Apple. Do you not want to give Apple access to include your network in the database? Then you need to end the name of your network with ‘_nomap’ (without the quotes). Your router will then appear on a list of networks that are not included in the database. Yet that is anything but certain according to the researchers, but it is worth a try.

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