Do you want Facebook keeping track of everywhere you go or have gone? The Facebook mobile app may be doing just that. If you've ever given it permission to know your location, it is likely tracking where you are all the time, even when the app is closed. It also knows everywhere you've been in the past. If that feels to you like an invasion of your privacy, you can now do something about it--you can change your settings so that it tracks your location only when the app is actually in use, or never at all.
Hat tip to TNW for reminding Facebook mobile users about this bit of intrusiveness from the social network. As Facebook's engineering director of location infrastructure, Paul McDonald, notes in a new blog post, Android's location service is set as always on or always off for all apps, which means that if you've ever agreed to allow Facebook to view your location, you gave it access to track your location and know every place you've ever been whether the app was in use or not.
Obviously, this is valuable information that Facebook can sell to its advertisers to help them better target ads to you, which may or may not be something you want. If you don't, Facebook, to its credit, just released some new settings that allow you to choose when it can track your location in the Android app--always, never, or only when you're using the app. If you use an Android device and never want Facebook to know your location, you can simply make sure location is turned off for the app. If you want it to track your location all the time, whether you're using Facebook or not, you can turn (or leave) the Background Location setting on. As McDonald notes, this may be helpful if you want to use Facebook's Nearby Friends feature. If you want Facebook to know your location only while the app is running, you can now turn Background Location off. If you have an iPhone, you've always had the ability to fine-tune your location settings for the Facebook mobile app. As McDonald notes, nothing has changed.
Facebook wants to make sure all its mobile users are aware of these privacy settings, so it's sending an alert to all Android users who've ever given the app permission to know their location, letting them know about its new Background Location options and inviting them to review their privacy settings and asking them to "check that their settings are right for them," McDonald says. And even though iOS users had those same controls already, Facebook is also alerting those who ever turned on location tracking, suggesting they review their privacy settings as well.
TNW's post contains a useful step-by-step guide that that walks you through how to check your location tracking settings and change them, if desired. It's worth taking a minute to look at yours and make sure Facebook is gathering only the information you want it to have.