Facebook Messenger App Shares Your Exact Location
Many would already know that Facebook's
standalone Messenger app for Android and iOS
has location sharing on by default. The location
shows up just below every message but most
people didn't care much. But what everyone
was unaware of was how accurate the location data, was or how simple it was to track
A student named Aran Khanna at Harvard
College has discovered that the Messenger can actually allow Facebook friends users chat to accurately find their location without their
knowledge. Khanna has claimed on his blog
post that Facebook has notified him that it will
be fixing the issue soon.
Khanna created a Chrome extension called
Marauders Map, which collects location data
from Facebook's Messenger app via the Mapbox
API and plots them on a map. The Chrome extension only requires location sharing on the Messenger app with GPS turned on the mobile
and it could retrieve location from messages
sent with location sharing enabled.
Khanna noticed that his Chrome extension could
plot latitude and longitude coordinates of the
message location, and claimed that they had
over "5 decimal places of precision." More
alarmingly, Khanna found that he could also
track locations of people whom he was not Friends on Facebook with, but only those he
interacts with on Messenger.
"I am currently in a large active chat to organize
poker games with some fellow students, many
of whom I am not Facebook friends with.
However, I can still track their locations
extremely accurately from the messages they
send the group," said Khanna on his blog.
On days when Khanna used Messenger app for
hours, he spotted that the location history of the
Marauders Map was nearly identical to the
phone's location history.
Engadget however contradicts and claims this isn't "real-time tracking method." It explains
that the extension compiles the data from
Messenger into a map. Also to be noted, is that
people can track you only if you have interacted
with them, not just using Facebook or Facebook
Messenger in general.
The whole idea of how someone can track your
exact address via the location sharing feature
enabled in an app sounds like a conspiracy out
of a Hollywood movie. The point is it leaves a lot
to think about, as the Marauders Map can be a
treat for stalkers of Facebook friends. So, till Facebook rolls out a fix, who do you
avoid being stalked by friends and others you
interact with on a daily basis? People can turn
off location sharing feature on their mobile
apps via Settings > Location Services. This won't
stop them from tracking your old location history but will prevent your location sharing for
future messages. Considering that Facebook has been notified about this very public privacy issue, and has already replied it would be delivering a fix, we can expect the fix to be released sooner than later. Also, Khanna's Marauders Map extension is no longer active, as it has hit the Mapbox API limit.