Facebook's wi-fi finder ramps up user tracking

 

Wherever you roam in the world Facebook wants to ensure you can always find a wi-fi hotspot, and that the social media giant can always find you.

International roaming can get expensive, especially when it comes to data, so free public wi-fi hotspots can save the day when you're travelling. You can often rely on the usual suspects like Apple, Starbucks or McDonald's, but Facebook aims to come to your rescue if you're trapped in a wi-fi wasteland.

Of course it would be naive to think that Facebook's biggest concern is helping you to avoid hefty international roaming charges.

Obviously it wants to encourage us to use social media more when we're on the road, plus it's using the Find Wi-fi feature to forge a stronger relationship with small businesses.

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The real price we pay is that Facebook insists on tracking your every move if you want to take advantage of Find Wi-fi, and there's no way around it.

Facebook isn't compiling its own map of open wi-fi hotspots, instead it's letting businesses register their hotspots so they appear under the new Find Wi-fi menu in the Facebook mobile app. 

Find Wi-fi appears to be dominated by cafes, gyms and small retailers who are keen to use Facebook to get more people in the door.

Find Wi-fi appears to be dominated by cafes, gyms and small retailers who are keen to use Facebook to get more people in ...

Find Wi-fi appears to be dominated by cafes, gyms and small retailers who are keen to use Facebook to get more people in the door.

You can see their locations spread out on a map or else view them in a list, plus it's possible to move to another location on the map and search for open wi-fi networks in that area – which is handy for planning ahead.

Head to the nearest shopping centre and big names like Samsung are conspicuous by their absence – presumably preferring not to play Facebook's game. Other major retailers like McDonald's are onboard.

The real frustration with Facebook's Find Wi-fi is that you're expected to grant the Facebook app access to GPS location data on your phone even when you're not using the app, which is going to take its toll on your battery.

Enabling Find Wi-fi also turns on Facebook's Location History feature so it can better track your movements – granting the social media giant access to a wealth of sensitive personal information.

In theory you should be able to change Facebook's Location Services setting back to "While using the App" and still have Find Wi-fi work when you launch the app, but Facebook prevents this.

It demands that you set Location Access back to "Always" before you can open the wi-fi map. The same with Facebook's Location History, if you turn it off it's switched back on when you use Find Wi-fi.

Between the toll on your battery life and the impact on your privacy, some Facebook users will likely take a hard pass on Find Wi-fi.

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 - Sydney Morning Herald

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