Lawmakers Question Facebook’s Location Tracking Practices

Facebook privacy

Two senators, Josh Hawley of Missouri and Chris Coons of Delaware, have written a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg regarding Facebook’s ability to track the location of users even when they turn off location services, according to a report by CNBC.

The two senators want Zuckerberg to explain how and why this happens, and for him to “respect” people’s desire to not share locations with the company. 

The letter contained questions about the methods of the practice through both Google and Apple’s new operating systems. 

In September, after both tech giants released new operating systems, Facebook released a blog post explaining the practice, saying that Facebook could still find out users’ locations through internet connections and check ins. 

“If a user has decided to limit Facebook’s access to his or her location, Facebook should respect these privacy choices,” the senators, members of the Judiciary Committee, wrote in the letter to Zuckerberg. “The language in the blog post, however, indicates that Facebook may continue to collect location data despite user preferences, even if the user is not engaging with the app, and Facebook is simply deducing the user’s location from information about his or her internet connection. Given that most mobile devices are connected to the internet nearly all the time, whether through a cellular network or a Wi-Fi connection, this practice would allow Facebook to collect user location data almost constantly, irrespective of the user’s privacy preferences. Users who have selected a restrictive location services option could reasonably be under the misimpression that their selection limits all of Facebook’s efforts to extract location information.”

In addition, the senators are asking how data collection works with location settings turned off and whether location services are used for targeted ads. Hawley has been especially critical of Facebook, telling Zuckerberg that if he was serious about protecting consumer data he would sell Instagram and WhatsApp. The two senators have asked for a response by Dec. 12.