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Facebook Tries to Avoid Location-Tracking Panic Ahead of iOS 13

Facebook on a smartphone and a MacBook at the same time.
(Image credit: Alexey Boldin/Shutterstock)

Facebook argues that its service is better when it can track your location. But both Apple and Google could rain on the company's parade.

In a blog post Monday (Sept. 9), Facebook said that changes Google is bringing to Android 10 and Apple is delivering in iOS 13 will give users more control over how apps monitor their locations. But Facebook urged customers to not turn off those features.

In Android 10, Google lets users decide whether apps can track your location when they're running. But Facebook's app also has its location settings. Facebook said that while the duplicate settings could get confusing, its own app will use only the location setting that's most restrictive.

It's with iOS 13, however, that Facebook might have the biggest problem.

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In Apple's new operating system, to launch in the next couple of weeks, the company gives users far more control over location settings. Specifically, Apple will tell you when an app is tracking your location and will let you turn it off. According to Facebook, its own app will fall into that category.

(Image credit: Facebook)

Facebook doesn't specifically say in its blog post that users should keep their location settings on. Instead, the company says it's simply trying to inform folks about location-settings changes in the new operating systems.

However, the company started its blog with a clear statement that location-tracking in Facebook is important: "Facebook is better with location," the company's engineering director of the Facebook Location Platform Paul McDonald wrote.

McDonald added that even if users opt for stringent location settings, the company can still track locations when users check in to locations or say they're at event. He also said Facebook can collect Internet-connection information to learn a person's location.

Still, it's not clear why Facebook even published this blog post. The company doesn't explicitly say how users should adjust their location settings, only how it uses location data. 

It's possible that Facebook wants to provide insight into its practices before iOS 13 and Android 10 become ubiquitous -- and the scope of Facebook's location-tracking becomes more apparent.

Don Reisinger is a communications strategist, consultant, and copywriter who has also written for many leading technology and business publications including CNET, Fortune Magazine and The New York Times, as well as Tom's Guide.