In the latest controversy to hit Facebook, the company has been accused of attempting to siphon off user location data from iPhones by accessing their Bluetooth connectivity, even when the application isn’t open.
Apple launched its latest iOS update today, iOS 13, but trial users of the software yesterday discovered that they were being met with a new permissions request on their devices. Those who had downloaded the software were asked whether they were happy to provide the Facebook application with access to their Bluetooth connection.
The requests reads, “‘Facebook’ would like to use Bluetooth. This will allow ‘Facebook’ to find and connect to Bluetooth accessories. This app may also use Bluetooth to know when you’re nearby.”
When this setting is enabled, the Facebook application has supposedly been found to be capable of gathering location data, even if the app isn’t running. But if you deny the request, it won’t be able to use Bluetooth to track your whereabouts.
It’s possible that the changes to Apple’s “Find My iPhone” application, which are included in iOS13, could’ve resulted in the sudden prompt to update Bluetooth permissions. Rebranded to simply “Find My“, the app is now capable of tracking devices that are offline by using Bluetooth to pinpoint their location.
Supposedly a source at Facebook has said that the prompt was designed by Apple and is not indicative of the exact way in which Facebook would use user location data. The company is apparently working on better terminology that more accurately reflects the intended usage.
It’s possible that Facebook saw this backlash coming, as it was only last week that the social media giant posted an update on their blog centered around the supposed benefits of allowing Facebook access to Bluetooth:
‘Facebook is better with location. It powers features like check-ins and makes planning events easier. It helps improve ads and keep you and the Facebook community safe. Features like Find Wi-Fi and Nearby Friends use precise location even when you’re not using the app to make sure that alerts and tools are accurate and personalised for you.’Paul McDonald, Engineering Director at Facebook
If you’re not sure whether Facebook is tracking your data, it’s possible to check via the Settings application on your iPhone. Simply open the app, locate the Facebook application, and check that the option to allow Bluetooth permissions is switched off. But if you get stuck, just give WiseGuys a call on 0808 123 2820 and we can talk you through the process.