The advent of Apple’s iOS 14.5 update pissed off a lot of companies, particularly Facebook and Google, thanks to the App Tracking Transparency feature it brought in. With this feature, users can opt-out of being tracked by third-party apps and stop them from collecting data from the iPhone. Of all the companies, Facebook was the most vocal about its problems with the app tracking transparency feature, the company argued that users opting out of tracking would hamper their targeted advertising, and therefore their revenue and the revenue of many small businesses. Given that about 4% of iOS users in America actually opted to be tracked by third-party apps, it’s safe to say that Apple users really like and appreciate this control over their data.
However, there is a problem. The notion that Facebook cannot collect any data about a user once App Tracking Transparency is set as preferred (opting out of being tracked), might be wrong. Reports state that Facebook is still able to record some data from its users, primarily through their activities. And this is a form of data collection that Apple’s App Tracking Transparency cannot address. The good news is, though, this can be controlled and stopped.
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To understand how this is happening, let’s take the example of photos. Photos from the iPhone, when uploaded on Facebook, might have geotags that can allow Facebook, or practically anyone, to know about your location. Again, if you have been tagged in a photo on Facebook and that image has a geotag, the social media company automatically registers that as your location at that given time, as HotHardware pointed out in its report. This exchange of data is enabled by the “information exchange between Facebook and its clients” and in such cases, “registrations on a particular businesses’ ledgers can ultimately mean handing your data to Facebook”.
How to stop Facebook from tracking you
The countermeasures available for this include turning off geolocation on both Android and iOS. So if you happen to post a picture on Facebook, there is not connected geolocation tag. Also, you can prevent people from tagging you in images without your approval from Facebook’s settings. With this, you will have to manually approve all tags for it to show up on your timeline and people will also not be able to tag you unless you allow it. You can go back to older posts and also untag yourself if you want, particularly those with location tags on them.
You cannot completely stop a data exchange with Facebook unless you stop using the app altogether. Or use a VPN when you do it. If you do not use a VPN, Facebook can collect the device’s IP address, in the least, and use that to peg your approximate location. And, it’s not just Facebook that is doing this, almost every online service is collecting at least a little amount of data off you when you use them. However, turning off geolocation on your device is a start.