Well, it looks like it didn’t take long after Instagram’s cofounders bailed for Facebook to make the popular photo-sharing app into spyware. It is being reported that Facebook is testing a new location sharing “feature” that would see it scoop up your Instagram location data to use as it pleases (i.e., serving you location-based ads). But worse, as app researcher Jane Manchun Wong discovered, is that this feature would send Facebook your location data gathered through Instagram even when you aren’t actively using the app:
Instagram, as a "Facebook Product", is testing Facebook Location History in their app.
It allows tracking the history of precise locations from your device, now through instagram app too
— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) October 4, 2018
Facebook is testing Map view in Nearby Friends pic.twitter.com/stFzFzOjxu
— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) October 2, 2018
Here’s the full description of the new feature being tested:
“Location History is a setting that allows Facebook to build a history of precise locations received through Location Services on your device. When Location History is on, Facebook will periodically add your current precise location to your Location History even if you leave the app. You can turn off Location History at any time in your Location Settings on the app.
When Location History is turned off, Facebook will stop adding new information to your Location History which you can view in your Location Settings. Facebook may still receive your most recent precise location so that you can, for example, post content that’s tagged with your location. Location History helps you explore what’s around you, get more relevant ads, and helps improve Facebook. Location History must be turned on for some location feature to work on Facebook, including Find Wi-Fi and Nearby Friends.”
In other words, the new feature uses Instagram to take your exact GPS location data and sends it to Facebook where it is displayed via your Facebook Activity Log, which maps the locations of everywhere you go. Facebook issued a statement to TechCrunch confirming they are in fact prototyping the feature:
“To confirm, we haven’t introduced updates to our location settings. As you know, we often work on ideas that may evolve over time or ultimately not be tested or released. Instagram does not currently store Location History; we’ll keep people updated with any changes to our location settings in the future.”
If Facebook does indeed roll this “feature” out to all users, people could block it by turning off Instagram’s access to location data on your Android device or iPhone, but then you would be blocking the ability to tag Instagram posts by location. In other words, this looks to be a case of “let us track you even more or lose access to the existing features you already have.”