Instagram tests location history harvesting to help Facebook target ads

Instagram app open on phone

Instagram has been spotted prototyping a privacy setting that would allow it to share your location history with its parent company Facebook.

The setting records exact GPS coordinates collected by the Instagram app, even then when it is not in being used, and then sends that information to Facebook to target users with ads and relevant content recommendations.

This has raised concerns about how much surveillance Facebook is undertaking and how it is getting its data. This Instagram location sharing tool is actually located in Facebook's privacy and security settings, where it is explained that Instagram and Messenger data can be used to collect and build a history of locations based on your phone's location features.

"Location History is a setting that allows Facebook to build a history of precise locations received through Location Services on your device," Facebook states. "When Location History is on, Facebook will periodically add your current precise location to your Location History even if you leave the app. You can turn off Location History at any time in your Location Settings on the app.

"When Location History is turned off, Facebook will stop adding new information to your Location History which you can view in your Location Settings. Facebook may still receive your most recent precise location so that you can, for example, post content that's tagged with your location."

With the social network's former VP of its news feed, Adam Mosseri now in charge of Instagram, there is a concern that it will try to squeeze more value out of the picture sharing app. Facebook has previous for this having been fined $122 million for breaking its promise to European regulators that it would not commingle WhatsApp and Facebook data.

The social network is already under scrutiny for how it uses personal data and its encroachment into users lives and its involvement with the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The company still hasn't reckoned with the full extent of the massive hack it detected last week, in which unknown malicious actors exploited three distinct bugs on Facebook's platform that combined to devastating effect.

Bobby Hellard

Bobby Hellard is ITPro's Reviews Editor and has worked on CloudPro and ChannelPro since 2018. In his time at ITPro, Bobby has covered stories for all the major technology companies, such as Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook, and regularly attends industry-leading events such as AWS Re:Invent and Google Cloud Next.

Bobby mainly covers hardware reviews, but you will also recognize him as the face of many of our video reviews of laptops and smartphones.