Facebook’s Android App Is Finally Letting Users Opt Out of Having Their Locations Constantly Tracked

February 21, 2019, 12:37 AM UTC

Facebook announced changes to its Android app on Wednesday that will make it easier for users to decide how much of their location data is sent to and stored by the social network when they’re not using the app.

While iPhone users have the option to allow an app to only use their location data when it is open, Facebook’s Android app previously only offered two choices–on and off. That meant Android phone users, who have location services toggled on, have been sending Facebook a constant stream of precise location data, giving the company a potentially stalker-level view of their day to day activities.

“If you enabled this setting, two things happened: you would share your location when you weren’t using the app and you would allow Facebook to store a history of your precise locations,” Paul McDonald, Facebook’s engineering director said in a blog post. “With this update, you’ll have a dedicated way to choose whether or not to share your location when you aren’t using the app.”

Facebook won’t be making any changes to the choices Android users have made, nor will it collect any new information as a result of the update, McDonald said. Android users who have turned on location history in the past can expect to receive an alert from Facebook, letting them know they can now change their app privacy settings to allow Facebook to only use their location when the app is open, if they so choose.

While major privacy concerns have been raised about the way apps track users and location data, there are some potential benefits. On Facebook, McDonald said the location data allows people to connect with nearby friends who are also sharing their location. Other apps use location data to recommend nearby restaurants or the best route to avoid traffic.

However, in an age where data is currency, it’s best to remember that if an app is free, chances are, your data is the cost.