It seems like everyone is tracking our location now. Not surprisingly, Facebook Messenger can also transmit a significant amount of information on your location activity. If you use Messenger, here’s how to make sure it’s not reporting your location to others.
We know Google does it, and if you use an Apple device, you have to enable location tracking for certain features and apps to work correctly. Basically, any portable device or modern operating system has location-oriented features baked into it. Even your web browser utilizes your location to deliver results specific to where you’re residing.
Facebook Messenger has always had location reporting built into it, but as it turns out, this could be (and probably is) a boon for stalkers and creeps because they can build a very detailed accounting of everywhere you go (as long as you chat on Messenger throughout the day).
To prove this point, one enterprising Facebook intern created a Marauder’s Map, which lets anyone generate an actual map pinpointing everywhere a Messenger user goes.
While the Marauder’s Map is now gone, the lesson is not, and Facebook was quick to issue an update that turns the location feature off by default. That said, if you do have it enabled, either by accident or you simply don’t know better, here are detailed instructions on exactly how to disable it.
Checking Whether Messenger’s Location Reporting is Enabled
Like we said, from now on Messenger’s location feature should be disabled by default when you install it. This is less of a concern with the iOS version of the app simply because of the way iOS handles permissions. With the Android version, however, you have to be a little more attentive. Still, we’ll cover both versions so you know what it is involved.
On Android, you can tell when the location service is on because there will be an icon in your chat windows. If the icon is blue, it means that the location option is enabled and active.
If you see the icon but it is grayed out, it means that location is enabled but inactive, but only for that particular chat.
Tapping the icon lets you toggle location on and off manually, but it will always be active for each new Messenger conversation.
If location is enabled for Messenger on your iPhone or iPad, when you tap the pin icon along the bottom, it will paste a map of your current location into your chat. Thus, instead of reporting your location every time you send a message to your conversation partner, they can see where you are but only if you choose to reveal that information.
If location is disabled in the iOS Messenger app, you’ll see the following message, which will whisk you to the settings to turn it on if you wish.
As we inferred earlier, it is more difficult to turn on location tracking on your iPhone or iPad because of this warning dialog.
Turning Location Off
To turn off the location feature in the Android app, you need to tap the settings gear at the top of the app’s screen, then scroll down and tap off “Location”.
iOS handles location permissions on the OS level, meaning you have to allow Messenger to use your location in the system settings. When you access these settings on your iPhone or iPad, the choices will be to turn it off completely or allow it while using the app.
If you use Messenger, then we recommend you check out how it is set up before starting any new chats. It’s still very much possible that you’re using an older version that doesn’t automatically disable the location feature if you use Android.
This is hardly the first Facebook-related annoyance we’ve talked about. We’ve always disliked all those game requests and birthday notifications, but this is actually something that could prove harmful to an unaware user.
While it’s certainly encouraging that Facebook actually took steps to protect user privacy from potentially invasive or even dangerous tracking activity, that it took them so long is still unfortunate. Hopefully current Messenger users will pay attention to and keep up on their app updates. At the very least, if you’re reading this, you now know what to do.
Please let us know if you have any questions or comments by sharing your feedback with us in our discussion forum.
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