A man using a cell phone

Facebook gathers a lot of data on its users and most people are aware of that. What most people aren’t aware of however is that by using Facebook’s mobile Messenger, they’re sharing their location information.

Yesterday the story broke of Marauders Map, a Chrome extension written by Aran Khanna, a computer science student at Harvard University. Khanna’s extension allowed users to see the location of all of their earlier messages. (Facebook requested that Khanna deactivate the extension’s API so the Chrome store link is now defunct. However, technically savvy folks can grab the code on Github.

The extension utilized the GPS data that’s embedded in every Messenger message and then plotted it on a map. Here is an example taken from Khanna’s post on Medium:

An example of location tracking in Facebook Messenger

Medium / Aran Khanna

Most people don’t realize that location sharing is on by default in the app. If you open up Messenger on your phone and tap on any messages you’ve exchanged, chances are you’ll see a small map  showing where it was sent.

What creeped Khanna out so much about the location data was that the longitude and latitude coordinates of each message have more than 5 decimal places of precision, allowing someone to narrow down the sender’s location to less than a meter. That means someone could literally track you to your house, place of work or from the hotel you were vacationing at.

As mentioned above, Khanna has deactivated the extension after being asked to do so by Facebook. This story should still serve as an example of the importance of being aware of how your information is shared and stored. While Khanna’s extension isn’t (easily) available anymore, your location data is still out there.

If you’re worried about how precise the location-sharing information is in Messenger, you’ve got a few options:

  1. Stop using Messenger on your mobile device
  2. Adjust your settings on your phone


  1. Go to Settings > Location Services
  2. Uncheck the box that enables location services


  1. Go to Settings > Location Services
  2. Locate Facebook Messenger on the list and set the location option to off

Just a reminder that updating these settings will only remove the location sharing from future messages you send. Anything you’ve previously sent will still have the location information embedded and will still be accessible – just not by you.

Will knowing this information make you stop using Messenger?

Top image courtesy of Kaboompics