Facebook is currently under a lot of scrutiny. It seems politicians have finally swept away what most of us have known for years. Facebook and other social networks track everything we do and everywhere we go. They also follow much more as we learned. Despite all the media coverage, one TechJunkie reader asked, ‘Does Facebook track your location?’ It surprised me that he asked.
The short answer is yes Facebook does track your location. Still, this is far from anything he’s watched. This leads us to separate some facts from fiction. Does Facebook listen to your calls? Does he read your messages? Does Facebook track you even when you are offline?
facebook location tracking
Facebook tracks your location to help advertisers connect with you when you’re in a specific geographic location. The process uses your GPS or mobile mast data to triangulate where you are at any given time. Even if your Facebook is not open, no one is completely sure whether you are being followed. Given the revelations of the past few months, I think it’s safest to assume they are.
You can disable this function a little.
- Open Facebook on your device.
- Select the three-line menu icon in the top right.
- Select Account Settings and Location.
- Select Disable Location History.
- Turn off Location Service.
- Launch Settings on your device and select Privacy.
- Select Location Services and Facebook.
- Next to Allow Location Services, select Never.
There is a relatively new function on Facebook called Close Friends. While disabling location tracking here, it’s best to make sure you’re off the grid.
- Open the Facebook app on your device.
- Select More in the bottom right and choose Settings.
- Select Account Settings and Location.
- Select Nearby friends and turn it off.
There is a widespread suspicion that Facebook will use your IP address to find out where you are, even if you turn off location services on your device. If you’re traveling to a new place and still seeing localized ads serving on Facebook, this may be a sign that it’s happening. The only way to get around this is to use a VPN on your device.
Does Facebook listen to your calls?
This question came up when I asked people about Facebook data collection. A few friends had seen ads appearing on Facebook that looked pretty similar to the content of a conversation they had that day. Also, Facebook asks for permission to access your microphone.
Facebook is (currently) not listening to your calls. He cannot listen because he has no capacity. Requires access to your phone’s microphone so you can voice chat using Facebook Messenger.
If you are not using the feature, you can disable it.
- Go to Settings and Apps.
- Select Facebook and Permissions.
- Toggle Disable Microphone.
On iOS, select Settings, Privacy & Microphone. Close Facebook.
Although Facebook doesn’t seem to be listening for calls, it collects and uploads call and SMS logs. This apparently includes who and when you called or texted, but not the content of those messages. You can still turn it off.
- Open Facebook Messenger.
- Select your avatar in the top right and choose People.
- Turn Sync off.
- Confirm your selection.
Does Facebook read your text messages?
Another question that arose while researching this piece was whether Facebook read your SMS. The answer is not unless you choose to sync Facebook Messenger on your Android device. Otherwise, apparently FB doesn’t have access to your SMS messages.
You can turn it off if you choose.
- Open Facebook Messenger and select Settings.
- Turn off ‘Continuous calling and SMS Matching’.
Does Facebook track you even when you are offline?
Yes it is, but only in a limited way that we know. We already know that the Facebook app tracks you wherever you are online, even if the app is turned off. If you are offline, you can still be tracked via ‘Offline Conversions’.
Facebook has data arrangements with electronic payment institutions and loyalty card companies. If you make a purchase using a card through one of these organizations, Facebook has access to this data.
While this page is related to Facebook, many social networks and other entities are also tracking your every move. Google has something similar to Offline Conversions in Store Sales Metrics. So while everyone is scribbling on Facebook right now, they’re far from being the only player in the game. At least now you know how to limit their access!