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Thu Aug 13, 2015, 11:16 AM

Facebook Dumped Intern After He Pointed Out Messenger's Creepy Location Tracking

It's not just the gummint that you have to worry about.

Facebook Dumped Intern After He Pointed Out Messenger's Creepy Location Tracking

Kate Knibbs
8/13/15 10:36am

Advice if you want to work for Facebook: Donít rock the boat. A Harvard student lost his internship with Facebook after provoking the company into updating its location sharing settings for Messenger.

Aran Khanna had an internship lined up at Facebook, but the Harvard student wasnít going to sit around with his thumb up his butt until that happened. Instead, he got ready for his time at Facebook by creating a Chrome extension to showcase how the company gathers location data using Messengerís Android app. The default setting meant anyone using Messenger for Android would share their detailed location data with anyone who they were in a message thread with, even if they werenít Facebook friends.

He called the extension ďMarauderís MapĒ and it did exactly what he hoped: It drew attention to Facebookís extensive location tracking. A lot of attention. People were freaked out by how closely Messenger could track your movements if you left its default location sharing settings on. Khanna wrote a Medium post describing his reasons for creating the app:

I decided to write this extension, because we are constantly being told how we are losing privacy with the increasing digitization of our lives, however the consequences never seem tangible

Within a day, Facebook asked Khanna not to talk to the press. He complied. Within two days, Facebook asked Khanna to deactivate the extension. He complied. Within three days, Khanna had lost his coveted internship. Nine days later, Facebook released an update for Messengerís location sharing, so even though Khanna got screwed, his jettisoned summer gig resulted in an actual privacy improvement from Facebook.

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Reply Facebook Dumped Intern After He Pointed Out Messenger's Creepy Location Tracking (Original post)
mahatmakanejeeves Aug 2015 OP
Fred Sanders Aug 2015 #1
Post removed Sep 2019 #2

Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Thu Aug 13, 2015, 11:23 AM

1. Yikes! And how much more will be revealed about all mobile location apps in the future?

"You may not believe that there are enough of these location tagged messages to provide truly invasive data on any one person, since they must be on mobile, with GPS on, and choose to share their location for it to be sentÖ right?

What you should keep in mind is that the mobile app for Facebook Messenger defaults to sending a location with all messages.
Itís not just locational data, itís very, very specific locational data:

Go ahead and see how many messages in your chats have locations attached. Iím guessing itís a lot of them. And if this isnít already starting to get a bit weird, the first thing I noticed when I started to write my code was that the latitude and longitude coordinates of the message locations have more than 5 decimal places of precision, making it possible to pinpoint the senderís location to less than a meter."

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