Facebook’s location tracking policy still worries US Senators

In November, US Josh Hawley and Chris Coons wrote to Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg to ask him an important privacy question does Facebook continue to track the locations of its users even when they’ve told it not to?

This week, in a reply leaked to The Hill, they got their answer: Yes.

The fuss started with a September change to the wording of Facebook’s policy for gathering data outlined in the blog in Understanding Updates to Your Device’s Location Settings.

Formulated earlier in 2019 in response to changes in the way Android 10 and iOS 13 manage location settings, Facebook’s explanation of how it planned to manage this going forward sounded ambiguous.

On the one hand it stated:

You’re in control of who sees your location on Facebook. You can control whether your device shares precise location information with Facebook via Location Services, a setting on your phone or tablet.

Clear enough, surely, and yet in the next paragraph, it was qualified:

We may still understand your location using things like check-ins, events and information about your internet connection.

Which anyone who’d read this far would probably have been confused by.

Facebook seems to be allowing users to opt-out of location by one route (GPS, say) while reinstating much of the same tracking through other routes (software events, IP addresses, noticing the Wi-Fi networks someone uses or is near).

Senators Hawley and Coons remain unconvinced. Facebook claims its users are in control of their location privacy, but this is only partly true, said Coons:

The American people deserve to know how tech companies use their data, and I will continue working to find solutions to protect Americans’ sensitive information.

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