10 Sep 2019

Facebook Looks to Get Ahead of User Concerns with Update on Location Settings

With the latest versions of both Android and iOS including new prompts which warn users when an app has been using their location data in the background, Facebook is already anticipating a fresh round of user concerns and controversies over the same.

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In order to get ahead of this, Facebook has this week published a new post which explains exactly how its apps use location data, and why you shouldn’t be overly concerned when a prompt like this shows up and outlines the way Facebook has been keeping tabs on your location.

As explained by Facebook:

“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.”

See, Facebook tracking your location data is for your benefit, so don’t panic when you get these new prompts.

“Please don’t panic”, Facebook is basically saying.

In Android version 10, users will have new controls over how individual apps access location data, either when they’re using them or not. Facebook notes that this may cause some confusion in respect to your individual Facebook data settings, but that it will “continue to respect your most restrictive settings choice”.

“For example, if your device location setting is set to “all of the time,” but your Facebook background location setting is off, we won’t collect your precise location information when you’re not using the Facebook app.”

Facebook also notes that it will begin to phase out the Facebook background location setting on Android 10 by reminding users to check their device’s location settings, in order to ensure what they’ve chosen is right for them.

In iOS 13, in addition to the existing “Always”, “Only when the app is in use” and “Never” location services options, users will have a new, fourth option – “Allow once.” Using this option will change how Facebook is able to track your data, and iOS systems will also provide prompts like the one above with more specific info on which apps are using your location info. 

Facebook, ideally, wants users to leave these tracking options on, in order to keep gathering relevant audience data points, while also being able to serve users more relevant prompts, and of course, ads. That’s why Facebook’s seeking to update users of the changes ahead of time, so they don’t get freaked out by Facebook’s tracking and switch them off. Again, Facebook’s saying “yes, we track your data, but don’t worry, it’s for your own good”.

How the changes will impact Facebook’s services are relative to take-up – if most users ignore the prompts and keep using Facebook like always, no harm. But if the prompts to trigger a significant number of people to question Facebook’s location tracking, that could be a problem.

So Facebook’s saying it’s fine, it’s all good. No need to pay much attention to these alerts. 

We’ll have to wait and see how users respond.

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