By Paul McDonald, Engineering Director, Location Infrastructure
February 21, 2019 - Dubai, UAE
Android and iOS are by far the two most popular mobile operating systems, but their location settings work differently. Android offers a single on/off switch for Location Services, so you can decide whether to share your precise location with Facebook and other apps. But iOS offers an additional option, so you can share your precise location always, only when the app is in use, or never. As a result, one of the questions we often hear from people using Facebook for Android – but not those using iOS – is whether Facebook gets their location even when they're not using the app.
Today we're announcing an update to Facebook's location controls on Android to give people more choice over how we collect location information and how we store it. We're not making any changes to the choices you've previously made nor are we collecting any new information as a result of this update.
New Location Control and Checkup on Android
Today we're introducing a new background location control on Facebook for Android so people can choose if they want us to collect location information when they're not using the app. For example, when people choose to use Nearby Friends, a feature that lets friends share their locations with each other, they give Facebook permission to access their location even when they're not using the app.
Until today, people using these features were asked to enable Location History. If you enabled this setting, two things happened: you would share your location when you weren't using the app and you would allow Facebook to store a history of your precise locations. With this update, you'll have a dedicated way to choose whether or not to share your location when you aren't using the app.
For people who previously chose to turn their Location History setting “on,” the new background location setting is “on.” For people who had turned Location History “off” – or never turned it on in the first place – the new background location setting is “off.”
We're alerting everyone using the Facebook app on an Android device who chose to turn on Location History in the past, letting them know about the new control, and asking them to take a moment to check that their settings are right for them. If you've never turned on Location History, you don't have to do anything. We won't turn either of these settings on unless you specifically tell us to.
New Checkup on iOS
For people who use Facebook for iOS, nothing is changing. But we will send a similar alert to everyone who chose to turn on Location History in the past so they can check to make sure their settings are right for them.
More Information About Android and iOS Settings
Today, the Location Services setting that iOS provides gives you three choices for when an app can access your precise location:
• Never: Your app can't access your precise location
• While Using: Your app can access your precise location while you're using the app
• Always: Your app can access your precise location even when you're not using the app
Today, Android's Location Services setting gives you two choices on whether an app can access your precise location:
• Off: Your app can't access your precise location
• On: Your app can access your precise location at any time
About Facebook and Location
Location information makes it possible for people to use Facebook to plan events, see more relevant ads, mark themselves safe in a crisis and share their favorite places. It also helps us recognize if your account has been compromised. For instance, if you usually log in to your account from a browser in London but suddenly someone tries to log in from a browser in Sydney, our systems recognize this unusual behavior and send you an alert to check that it's really you. You can learn more about the types of location information we collect – in addition to the precise location information that Android and iOS settings control – in Privacy Basics.
We're also updating Access Your Information to include our estimate of your primary location at the city or postal code level. Primary location is determined by information we use to support Facebook Products, such as the current city you might have entered on your profile; the IP address of your device; your activity on Facebook Products (like check ins); and precise location information if you've chosen to share it.
We hope people find these updates helpful and we'll continue finding ways to improve our controls based on feedback.