Here’s something to make you rest a little better this weekend (and for the rest of the year, probably). Instagram is testing a new function that would share your location with Facebook — even when you’re not using the app.
Researcher Jane Manchun Wong spotted that Instagram is “prototyping” the ability to share a user’s location, via a setting called Location History, with Facebook. That GPS data could be shared even if users are not using the app. The reasoning for this feature is it will allow users to “…explore what’s around you, get more relevant ads, and helps improve Facebook”. And we all know that Facebook’s been so careful with everyone’s data of late. Why not give ’em a little more, eh?
According to a ‘Learn More’ section explaining the setting: “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.”
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
About the only consolation for this feature, which may also apply to Facebook’s Messenger app, is that it’s strictly opt-in for the moment. It’s not enabled by default in Facebook (and other Facebook-owned places)… but that doesn’t mean that it’ll stay that way.
Instagram and Facebook are not alone in their usage of location data, though. Google does it with Maps and with Android in general, and FourSquare is basically built that way from the ground up. But you’re expecting that sort of data to be collected for those items. Instagram, in its current incarnation, and Messenger… not so much.
A Facebook spokesperson, speaking to TechCrunch, said “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”.
Coming this soon after Instagram’s founders stepped down, this test — even in a limited capacity — doesn’t engender much confidence in the social network. Especially if Facebook one day decides to just flick the on-switch for folks and expect them to opt out of tracking rather than opt in.