On Thursday, social network Facebook began notifying users that certain location-based features will go away after May 31. These features include functions like Facebook’s Nearby Friends and weather alerts. Other related features, Time Alerts, Location History, and Background Location will also be “going away soon,” the company says.
No More Sharing Your Current Location With Facebook Nearby Friends
The Facebook app for both iOS and Android lets you share where you’re at with other Facebook friends. If you opt in to the feature, any of your connections on Facebook who also opt in can see you in a list. It currently shows the distance between you and your friend, your last logged location, and what neighborhood you’re in.
Nearby Friends offers an option to limit when your location gets shared. You can also stipulate sharing your precise location only for a set amount of time. The plan was for Facebook to use that location data to target advertising based on your travel history.
All of that’s going away. The features will stop being available as of May 31, and Facebook says it will stop collecting your location history and background location after that date (via 9to5Mac). If you want to download your location history from Facebook before it’s deleted from the servers, you have until August 1.
Don’t Think This Means Facebook Doesn’t Track Your Location
Interestingly, this doesn’t mean the Facebook app will stop tracking your location. In fact, the company acknowledges it will still collect location data “for other experiences.”
You can, of course, disable this entirely. If you go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services, you can turn off the app’s ability to access that information altogether.
While Facebook hasn’t specified why it’s discontinuing the features, we can make an educated guess. Reports recently leaked to Motherboard showed the social media giant has proven itself unable to account for the personal user data held under its stewardship. Facebook’s engineers admitted the company doesn’t have “an adequate level of control and explainability over how our systems use data.”
If the company is discontinuing these features as a way to get a better handle on personal user data, kudos. Of course, the fact that Facebook will continue to collect your location history without any sort of tangible benefit to you is worrisome.