NO Doesn’t Mean NO To Facebook
Facebook’s ironically named “Privacy Settings” include a “location history” option for mobile users. You might think that turning it off prevents Facebook from tracking your location and targeting you with ads from businesses you pass. You would be mistaken. Read on for the scoop…
Can You Stop Facebook From Tracking Your Location?
As I mentioned in the intro, using the "location history" option in the "Settings and Privacy" area of the app won't stop Facebook from tracking the physical location of your phone. Ah, but if you tell your phone to “never” share your location with the Facebook app, that will do the trick. Right? Wrong again.
No matter what you do, Facebook always will know your current IP address, which reveals where you are connecting to the public Internet. Typically, on a mobile device that’s either a nearby cell tower or a WiFi access point in a specific building. That’s not close enough for a drone strike, but it is close enough for targeting of retail, restaurant, and other location-sensitive ads.
Facebook explains that it’s impossible to escape this form of location tracking in its “Privacy Basics” help section. “You can control whether your device shares precise location information with Facebook Company Products via Location Services, a setting on your mobile device. We may still understand your location using things like check-ins, events, and information about your internet connection.”
Other “things” Facebook uses to divine your location may include photos in which you are tagged, if the photos include metadata about where they were taken. If your phone’s GPS service is enabled, crossing an invisible “geo-fence” may inform Facebook that you have entered or exited a defined physical area such as a tourist attraction, sports stadium, concert venue, or even a healthcare facility.
A Long Island firm called Tell All Digital uses geo-fencing to help personal injury lawyers display ads to people in emergency rooms; the ads keep showing up on patients’ phone and other devices for up to two months. Such is ambulance-chasing in the Internet Age.
A Massachusetts firm used geo-fencing to help a Christian pregnancy counseling and adoption agency display its ads to people in Planned Parenthood facilities. The State’s attorney general shut down that scheme using Massachusetts’ consumer protection law. Apparently, using someone’s location without their knowledge or consent to show them (presumably) unwanted marketing information is “unfair and/or deceptive” advertising in certain cases, but not all.
The bottom line is that Facebook can and does estimate your location with a fairly high degree of accuracy no matter what you do to conceal your location. Location data that Facebook can’t collect itself can be obtained from firms like the aptly named Tell All Digital.
So there really is no point in fiddling endlessly with Facebook's “Privacy Settings.” At best, you can only obscure your location enough to ensure the ads you will see are less relevant to you. Facebook seems to have created this illusion of “control” over your location data just to give users something to do, however pointless and counterproductive, rather than pressure lawmakers to force the company to take “no” for an answer when it asks permission to target ads based on your location.
A growing number of consumers are opting out of the Faustian bargain that Facebook and other ad-supported social media services foist upon us. (Is that a "foistian bargain" then?) They are opting instead for WeMe.com, Mastodon, and other privacy-centric social networks that do not track their every move and sell access to advertisers.
Are you concerned about Facebook tracking your location? If so, what steps have you taken? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 7 Jan 2019
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- NO Doesn’t Mean NO To Facebook (Posted: 7 Jan 2019)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved