Facebook Messenger dumps auto-location tracking for a pin drop

Instead of sharing location data automatically, Facebook users will be have the option to specify their whereabouts on a map.


Facebook Messenger is making location sharing a little less creepy, with finer controls over when to divulge your whereabouts.

Previously, Facebook Messenger used a location toggle that was enabled by default on Android phones, and required a one-time permission on iPhones. With the toggle turned on, every post would include location details automatically. Recipients could then view the sender’s location with a tap, or even use an extension to harvest friends’ data over time.

With the new version of Facebook Messenger for iOS and Android, users must choose to share their location manually. By tapping the “More” button or the location pin at the bottom of the screen, users can see a map with a location pin, which they can send as a separate message. Users can also drag the pin around the map, which could be useful for showing a past location or future meeting point.

As TechCrunch reports, Facebook sees the new location tool as a foundation for much greater things. The company hinted at tying location into other services, so for instance users could coordinate pickups in a ride-sharing app like Uber.

This isn’t the first time Facebook has stalled on automatic location sharing. Last year, the main Facebook app gained an voluntary feature called “Nearby Friends,” which would track your location and alert you when your favorite people were in proximity. But Facebook’s help page says the feature is “only available in some areas right now,” and at least on my iPhone, there’s no trace of it.

Why this matters: Just as Facebook backtracked on the “frictionless sharing” of the songs you listen to and the webpages you visit, the company has realized that automatic location sharing is a burden. As the hypothetical Uber example shows, sharing can be much more powerful when people have control over it.

Subscribe to the Best of Macworld Newsletter