Facebook has announced its plans to discontinue several services that have over time contributed to real-time tracking of user location. Some of the location tracking services the social media platform have usually offered include Nearby Friends, weather alerts, location history, and background location. Facebook has attributed “low usage” as a reason for the decision according to 9to5Mac. In a notification sent by the social media giant to users who have used this feature in the past, collecting data associated with these features will stop starting May 31st, data stored from these features will also be wiped starting August 1st.
A spokesperson of the company, Emil Vazquez has confirmed the decision to The Verge. Vazquez said that “While we’re deprecating some location-based features on Facebook due to low usage, people can still use Location Services to manage how their location information is collected and used.” Although this doesn’t in any way suggest that Facebook will discontinue the collection of location data entirely. As stated in the communique to users, the social media platform will “continue collecting location information for other experiences.” Data collected will come useful in the cause of serving relevant ads and location check-ins in line with its data policy. Users still have the ability to view, download, or delete any location data that has been saved within the platform’s Settings and Privacy menu. Otherwise related stored data on the social platform will automatically be deleted once the location tracking services are discontinued on August 1st.
Considering the fact that the feature is severely underused, chances are high that Facebook users wouldn’t notice that these features are gone or blink eventually when they do. I mean who relies on Facebook for weather alerts, almost nobody. The Nearby Friends feature which was introduced to the social media platform in 2014, allowed users to share real-time locations with their friends on the Facebook app too. The feature served the purpose of users arranging an in-person hangout with people nearby. The use of the feature has waned over the years after similar features showed up. Features like Snapchat’s Snap Map and Apple’s Find My Friends.
Well, it’s no longer news that Facebook has been rated poorly when it comes to keeping users’ data secure and not for the wrong purpose. Discontinuing the location-based service and deleting data stored from it should actually make Facebook breathe a sigh of relief. Not until 2019, did Facebook start letting users on Android turn off background location tracking following a report that revealed Facebook tracked users’ locations if they made a “credible” threat. Apple had long put powers in the user’s hands by letting them turn off location tracking for specific apps.