Facebook is testing a new tracking location feature on Instagram that would allow Facebook to build up a user’s location history from data collected on a user’s phone.
It’s possible this feature could upset users who want to limit Facebook’s surveillance in their lives as some users have feared Instagram may be exploited to squeeze more data out of its user’s lives following the appointment of Adam Mosseri, a close friend of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, as the head of Instagram, according to TechCrunch.
Mobile researcher Jane Manchun Wong tweeted screenshots of the tested features in the settings of a device.
The move is also reminiscent of a check-in feature of Burbin, the predecessor app which eventually became Instagram. Facebook’s Instagram wouldn’t be the first company to do this as Google’s Maps app does a similar history logging on Android devices and Foursquare’s data business is built on this model.
Facebook did attempt to clarify any confusion and stated that it hadn’t made any major changes to the app.
“To confirm, we haven’t introduced updates to our location settings,” a Facebook spokesperson told the publication. “As you know, we often work on ideas that may evolve over time or ultimately not be tested or released. Instagram does not currently store Location History; we’ll keep people updated with any changes to our location settings in the future.”
Security experts warn that if launched, the feature may potentially compromise user’s security.
“It’s generally not a good idea to reveal more information about movements, behaviours and the like; and turning location reporting off is sound security advice when looked at in isolation,” Sam Curry, chief security officer at Cybereason told SC Media. “However, much of your location-based information is inferable from elsewhere and from other data readily available and doing this might lead to a false sense of security.”
Curry added that the decision to share the information is a personal one which is based on lifestyle versus privacy choices to try to limit access to real world kinetic information by data super-aggregators.
“If done right it may be hard to do completely and lead to major questions of whether to participate in social media at all,” Curry said. “More choices and disclosure, ease of access to exposure and ease of autonomy features are needed across the board; simply saying you can change settings for clicks into a UI on dozens of sites is not enough.”
It is unclear if the feature would be offered as an opt-in or opt-out offering if launched but Wong noted the prototype defaulted to off and that she had to turn the feature on. If enabled, the feature could assist Facebook in targeting users with location specific ads