After continuous pressure from Senators, Facebook has today admitted that the company tracks the location of users who turn Location Services for the Facebook app off.
According to a new report from The Hill, Facebook sent a letter to two U.S. Senators that answered questions around the company’s location tracking process and if they continue to do so even when users opt-out of sharing their location with Facebook.
Senators Christopher Coons (D-Del.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) had questioned how the social media giant handled location tracking, specifically whether it continued to track individuals even if they turned location tracking off. In reply to the senators’ request, Facebook’s deputy chief privacy officer, Rob Sherman, indicated that the company continues to use other means at its disposal to track users, regardless of their location sharing settings.
“When location services are off, Facebook may still understand people’s locations using information people share through their activities on Facebook or through IP addresses and other network connections they use,” Sherman wrote.
Facebook acknowledged it also targets ads based on the limited location information it receives when users turn off or limit tracking. Facebook doesn’t allow users to turn off location-based ads, although it does allow users to block Facebook from collecting their precise location, the company wrote.
“By necessity, virtually all ads on Facebook are targeted based on location, though most commonly ads are targeted to people with a particular city or some larger region,” the company wrote. “Otherwise, people in Washington, D.C. would receive ads for services or events in London, and vice versa.”
Senators Christopher Coons and Josh Hawley criticized the company for making money off of personal information it shouldn’t have access to.
“Facebook claims that users are in control of their own privacy, but in reality, users aren’t even given an option to stop Facebook from collecting and monetizing their location information,” Coons said. “The American people deserve to know how tech companies use their data, and I will continue working to find solutions to protect Americans’ sensitive information.”
“There is no opting out,” Hawley tweeted. “No control over your personal information. That’s Big Tech. And that’s why Congress needs to take action.”