If you’re like most, you probably don’t want to broadcast your whereabouts at all times. But a lot of social media apps are tracking your location and making it easy for others to do the same.
Here’s a look at how three ways social media apps can be used to track your every move.
Facebook tracks the location of all of your messages.
While it’s pretty well known that Facebook’s Messenger app uses location data, it’s not so well known just how that location data can be used.
But thanks to a new Google Chrome extension called Marauder’s Map we now know that you can get some pretty creepy location data from the messaging app.
The extension, which is named after the magical map from “Harry Potter,” basically reveals a person’s exact location on a map. The extension is able to work because Facebook Messenger ties a user’s location data to a message if their location settings are enabled. The extension then maps out the person’s location based on where they send each messages.
However, it this only works if the person you are messaging has location data for the app turned on.
If that wasn’t creepy enough, the extension even allows you to view a user’s location even if you are not friends with them, but are using the app to communicate. For example, if you are in a group chat with someone, but aren’t their friend on Facebook, you can still view their whereabouts if they have location data turned on for the app.
It should also be noted that if someone you are messaging has their location data turned on, you can also see almost exactly where they are located by simply clicking on the icon next to the time you sent the message.
If you want to turn location sharing for Facebook Messenger off so that data isn’t being shared, go to “Settings” on your smartphone, select “Privacy”, then select “Location Services.” Once you are in “Location Services”, select Facebook Messenger and turn off location sharing.
Instagram tracks your photos even if you don’t geotag
Instagram also collects some pretty specific data about users’ locations based on where they post images.
While the picture sharing app does give users the option to name the location of where they are uploading an image, it also geotags an uploaded pic regardless if the user has selected the “Add to Photo Map” function.
This means that anybody can view the almost exact location of where an image was posted on a map even if the user doesn’t select the “Name This Location” feature.
This is scary because people tend to upload the most images from their home or other places they frequent a lot, like work. So if a user’s profile is public and their photo map is turned on, anybody can see the exact location of where they are posting. And even if a person’s profile is private, but the photo map is enabled, their friends can see all of the location data for each image.
To check or change your Instagram location settings, you will have to again change them under the privacy settings in your smartphone. But if you still want to geotag locations sometimes, you will need to keep the location setting turned on, but disable the “Add to Photo Map” feature in Instagram.
If you want to remove geotags for images that have already been saved to your map, you will need to tap the geotag icon on your instagram profile and select the set of images on the map that you wish to delete.
Swarm broadcasts your location even if you don’t check in
Even people who opt to share their location on social media may be surprised by just how tricky it is to disappear.
For example, Foursquare’s check-in app Swarm broadcasts users’ almost exact location even if they have not selected a specific location for check-in.
If a user has the ‘Neighborhood Sharing’ feature is turned on in the app, their location down to the cross streets can be viewed by simply tapping the teardrop icon under their profile image.
While a Swarm user might think they are being discreet by just sharing the neighborhood they are in, they are actually sharing a pinpoint of their location.
To stop sharing your exact location on Swarm without checking in, users must disable the ‘Neighborhood Sharing’ function.