Can a mobile app track a user using GPS/location services running in the background, and do something when a user is found in a particular location? Assuming that the app clearly tells the user that it will do this?

A colleague said that this is illegal because there is a court ruling that no one (software/app) can track a user's location in the background, but rather can only use location when the user is actively using the app. Is this correct?

After googling I found one ruling that "warrantless tracking is not allowed." Is this applicable?


It is hard to prove a negative, but no - there is not rule that an app cannot track a user while the app is in the background.

Almost every GPS-function app on every smart phone does the very thing you are talking about.


The "warrantless tracking" ruling you found applies to the admissibility of evidence collected by those means in a trial. Unless your client is a law enforcement agency it has no bearing on the use of an app.

As jqning said, there is no law against a background app using location data, and many smartphone apps do this.

  • 1
    Definitely if it was with the knowledge of the owner. If I want an app that can draw a map of my movements, I can't see why that could be illegal. Without my knowledge and giving that data to someone else is something different.
    – gnasher729
    Sep 22 '15 at 18:35

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