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Facebook knows everywhere you go — here's how to stop it from tracking you

Key Points
  • Facebook tracks everywhere you go, to provide location features and serve you ads.
  • You might be shocked to see how often it collects location data, especially if you let it do so even when you're not using the app.
  • Facebook makes it easy to find this information and limit how it can track you.
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook, holds his phone after the morning session at the Allen & Co. Media and Technology Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, July 13, 2018.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

If you use Facebook's mobile app, it tracks your location and knows everywhere you go, even when you're not actively using the app.

I recently dug through Facebook's user settings to find out a bit more about what it knows about me. It had a lot of data on my travels, just as Google did, but I stopped it from logging future data.

To see how much data Facebook collects, I picked a random date: Sept. 2, 2018.

I was visiting California, and Facebook had data on everywhere I went that day, including stops around Santa Monica, a lunch in Malibu, and where I ended up staying on vacation in Santa Barbara. I can even see the exact route I took on my drive up 101, which means Facebook was gathering data on my location even when I wasn't using it. (I was driving, after all.)

Facebook's Location History View tool lets you see where you've been, in case you want to check for yourself.

Facebook tracked my whole trip around California.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Facebook says it uses this information to "provide you with location features, including allowing you to post content that's tagged with your location, get more relevant ads, find places and Wi-Fi nearby and use Nearby Friends." It also says it uses data to build a "history of precise locations received through Location Services on your devices. When Location History is on, Facebook will add your current precise location to your Location History either when you're using the app or continuously if you've turned on Background Location."

It's not information I want to provide Facebook, and you might not want to either. Especially since Facebook has sometimes struggled to keep information about users from leaking to unauthorized parties.

You can stop Facebook from storing your location history, but you can't just do it right on Facebook's website. Instead, you need to manually turn it off on your phone using the Facebook app.

How to stop Facebook from tracking your location on Android or iPhone:
  • Open Facebook on your phone.
  • Tap the menu button on the right. It looks like three bars stacked on top of one another.
  • Choose Settings & Privacy.
  • Select Privacy Shortcuts.
  • Choose Manage your location settings.
  • Tap Location Access.
  • Turn off "Location History."
  • Tap Location Services and turn "Use Location" to off.
To delete your history, do this:
  • Open Facebook on your phone.
  • Tap the menu button on the right. It looks like three bars stacked on top of one another.
  • Choose Settings & Privacy.
  • Select Privacy Shortcuts.
  • Choose Manage your location settings.
  • Tap "View Your Location History."
  • Tap the menu button on the right (it looks like three dots.)
  • Tap "Delete all location history."

Just remember, if you ever want to post a picture that tags your location, or note that you're dining in a specific fancy restaurant, you may be giving Facebook access to your location data all over again.

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