Facebook has confirmed what we’ve long suspected: even if you turn off location permissions for the app, the company still tracks your movements. The news comes from a letter sent to two U.S. senators in response to questions they asked about the social media giant’s location-tracking policies. The Hill got hold of the letter on Tuesday.
A constant game of tag – According to the letter, written by Facebook’s deputy chief privacy officer, Rob Sherman, Facebook has multiple methods of collecting data on users’ locations, even when they’ve explicitly opted out of sharing location data.
First, there’s geo-tagged content shared to the platform, like images, check-ins to places, or address sharing when using services like Facebook Marketplace. Users could also be tagged in other Facebook users’ check-ins or images, which provides the company with information about users’ locations.
Finally, Facebook monitors users’ IP addresses. Which is why even if you’ve turned off location sharing, or only use your phone’s browser to access the social network, you’re still probably seeing region-specific advertising.
Opting out, for real — If you really want to ensure Facebook never knows where you are, which restaurants you frequent, or even which city you live in, you’ll have to jump through multiple hoops. First, you’ll need to ensure no one tags you in anything, ever. Next you’ll need to make sure you’re not sharing anything to the service with location hints. That could include images with location data, but it could also mean images with recognizable landmarks in them. Lastly, you’ll need to use a VPN to make it look like you’re somewhere else.
Of course, none of those solutions address the problem at its root. The only way to really expunge what Facebook knows about your whereabouts or your movements would be to delete your account and stop using the platform altogether.
But then how will you know what your friends are doing? Let alone where they’re doing it?