For years the antisocial media giant has claimed it doesn’t track your location, insisting to suspicious reporters and privacy advocates that its addicts “have full control over their data,” and that it does not gather or sell that data unless those users agree to it.
No one believed it. So, when it (and Google) were hit with lawsuits trying to get to the bottom of the issue, Facebook followed its well-worn path to avoiding scrutiny: it changed its settings and pushed out carefully worded explanations that sounded an awful lot like it wasn’t tracking you anymore. But it was. Because location data is valuable.
Then, late on Monday, Facebook emitted a blog post in which it kindly offered to help users “understand updates” to their “device’s location settings.”
It begins: “Facebook is better with location. It powers features like check-ins and makes planning events easier. It helps improve ads and keep you and the Facebook community safe. Features like Find Wi-Fi and Nearby Friends use precise location even when you’re not using the app to make sure that alerts and tools are accurate and personalized for you.”
You may have missed the critical part amid the glowing testimony so we’ll repeat it: “… use precise location even when you’re not using the app…”
Huh, fancy that. It sounds an awful lot like tracking. After all, why would you want Facebook to know your precise location at all times, even when you’re not using its app? And didn’t Facebook promise it wasn’t doing that?
Well, yes it did, and it was being economical with the truth. But perhaps the bigger question is: why now? Why has Facebook decided to come clean all of a sudden? Is it because of the newly announced antitrust and privacy investigations into tech giants? Well, yes, in a roundabout way.
Surprisingly, in a moment of almost honesty which must have felt quite strange for Facebook’s execs, the web giant actually explains why it has stopped pretending it doesn’t track users: because soon it won’t be able to keep up the pretense.
“Android and iOS have released new versions of their operating systems, which include updates to how you can view and manage your location,” the blog post reveals.
That’s right, under pressure from lawmakers and users, both Google and Apple have added new privacy features to their upcoming mobile operating systems – Android and iOS – that will make it impossible for Facebook to hide its tracking activity.