It is no secret these days that Facebook wants to know absolutely everything about us. So much so that the social giant even tracks people who aren’t members of Facebook and keeps tracking people who are even when they’re not using the Facebook app. Now, in a gesture that’ll make you ask why they even had to do this in the first place, Facebook is making it easier for Android users to stop its app from tracking their location when they’re not using it.
Is Facebook finally getting the message about user privacy?
Location settings have always been a little more nuanced on iOS than they have been on Android. Android Facebook users have a simple on/off switch for sharing their location with Facebook and other apps. iOS users, however, have always had the option to share their location with the app always, never, or only when the app is in use.
Practically, this makes a huge difference, as it means iOS users can have full location services when using Facebook and not have to worry about Facebook tracking their location for the rest of the day. Android users, on the other hand, have always had to manually switch location services on and off again should they want to use them but then not be tracked. In practice, this usually ends with Android users leaving location tracking on all the time.
Now though, this has changed. The blog post announcing the change had this to say, “Today we’re introducing a new background location control on Facebook for Android so people can choose if they want us to collect location information when they’re not using the app… Until today, people using these features were asked to enable Location History. If you enabled this setting, two things happened: you would share your location when you weren’t using the app and you would allow Facebook to store a history of your precise locations. With this update, you’ll have a dedicated way to choose whether or not to share your location when you aren’t using the app.”
This is a big change as it now makes it easier for Android users to take advantage of location services without having to submit to 24/7 surveillance. It also means that Facebook features like “Nearby Friends” will no longer show your location, even if you’re not on the app.
iOS users won’t see any change, and neither will Android users who have always had location services set to off. Those privacy-minded Android users won’t be affected as their location services will remain off.