By B.N. Frank
Facebook is getting a lot of bad press right now. So are Apple iPhones (see 1, 2). An article in Forbes thoroughly detailed the problem surrounding new privacy measures which were supposedly implemented to benefit users, which in part states:
So, this isn’t good. Your iPhone settings enable you to tell Facebook you don’t want your location tracked. It’s clear and non-ambiguous. Why then, if you tell Facebook “never” to access your location, is the data harvesting giant doing exactly that?
Apple’s iOS 14.5 is just a few weeks old, and the data already suggests it has delivered the expected strike against Facebook. Unsurprisingly, more than 80% of users do not opt in to being tracked. Millions of you have seen through the brazen warnings that Facebook’s free apps won’t remain free unless we surrender our right to privacy.
Facebook generates almost all its revenue from digital advertising—targeting ads by harvesting as much data from you and about you as it can. “Facebook marketing is generally dominated by iOS,” one ad industry article laments, “it’s pretty safe to assume Facebook has lost at least half their data, arguably the most valuable half.”
All of which means that Facebook will be doing ever more with the data that remains. And there’s a hidden danger in all the iOS 14.5 publicity—a false sense of security for iPhone users, thinking that the Facebook data issue is suddenly over, that everything has now changed. That would be very wrong—it really hasn’t…
Despite me telling my iPhone “never” to allow Facebook access to my location, despite me checking Facebook online to confirm it knows “location history for mobile devices” is set to “off.” Facebook continues to exploit a loophole, harvesting photo location tags and IP addresses, all of which it will, in its own words, “collect and process.”
I took a photo with my iPhone and then uploaded that to my Facebook account. I used Facebook’s app on my iPhone, the same app that has been told “never” to access my location, the same account that knows I have this switched off. But Facebook still collects the location tag from that photo, along with my IP address.
My iPhone adds GPS tags to photos—useful to sort and find images. I can use the share function in Apple Photos to strip location data as I send, and most messengers strip this data, but in Facebook’s app, when I upload a photo, the data is sent as well.
Facebook and Instagram do in fact strip the metadata, the so-called EXIF information, from photos that are saved to their platforms. You can see this, because if you save a photo from Instagram or your Facebook albums onto your phone, there will be no location information. That has been replaced with Facebook’s own codes.
And so, you might assume that Facebook has deleted this data. Wrong. If you go to your Facebook privacy settings and select “your Facebook information,” you can download a copy of the data it holds. If you select “photos and videos,” you will see the data that Facebook saved from the images you uploaded.
If you’re concerned about Facebook secretly tracking you through your iPhone, Forbes explains the steps you can take to stop it.
Don’t upload photos to Facebook or Instagram that have significant location data embedded, unless you want to share that data. You can use an app like iVerify, which will add a metadata stripping function to the share menu within photos, enabling you to save clean duplicates before you upload or share them.
If there’s one other setting you absolutely need to change, it’s the “load remote images” option within Apple Mail. This should be switched off, which will stop almost all the email tracking pixels you you are being sent from collecting your location data, your identifier and the date and time, every time you open a marketing email.
Activist Post reports regularly about unsafe technology. For more information, visit our archives.
Top image: Pixabay
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