What you need to know
- Facebook has admitted to tracking users' location data even when opted out.
- The company penned a letter to Senators that was acquired by The Hill.
- The Senators involved claim that it proves the need for government intervention.
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.
Reported by The Hill, Facebook sent a letter to Senators Christopher Coons (D-Del.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) 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.
Rob Sherman, Facebook's Chief Privacy Officer, penned the letter and explained how the company is still able to determine a user's location even if they turn Location Services off on their phone.
"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 ... as part of using Facebook, people may provide Facebook with specific information about their location ... they may check-in at a restaurant or a store, or apply a location tag to a photo, or their friend might tag them in a check-in post."
Sherman went further, saying that the company is required to use this information to determine a location in support of its ads business.
"By necessity, virtually all ads on Facebook are targeted based on location, though most commonly ads are targeted to people within a particular city or some larger region."
Coons and Hawley both criticized Facebook for the behavior, saying that it was dishonest to allow users to think they were keeping their location private but using other methods to track them and make money from it. Senator Coons, who is part of the Senate Judiciary Committee's tech task force, said that the current practices by Facebook are "insufficient and even misleading."
"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 ... 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."
Hawley was equally concerned, saying that it further proves that users do not really have control of their information and that government intervention is necessary.
"There is no opting out. No control over your personal information. That's Big Tech. And that's why Congress needs to take action."