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Facebook Messenger turns off automatic location tracking

(CNN) - Facebook no longer automatically tracks and shares your location data within its Messenger app.

You now have to go through a series of steps in order to send your location to someone.

"Sending a location is completely optional," Stan Chudnovsky, Facebook's head of product for Messenger, said in a blog post published Thursday.

To share where you are, tap on the "More" button on the bottom right of a chat window, then select "Location." You can choose to share a map of where you are, or an exact location (restaurant, theater, etc.) by tapping "Send."

Facebook uses Apple Maps for iOS devices, and Nokia HERE for Android devices.

Chudnovsky added that Messenger does not receive location information about you at all, unless you enable location services on your phone for the app.

In addition, Messenger only receives data about where you are if you choose to select and share a location on the map. The app does not gather location data in the background, and does not ask for new permissions for your information.

If you want to be safe, open the Settings tab within the Android app and disable location completely. Though the default is "off" on an iPhone, you can also disable location tracking in the iOS Messenger app by going into Settings>Privacy>Location>Services, and set the option to "Never."

You should also look through your chat threads to see if location tracking is on for each conversation.

Facebook started rolling out the update Thursday.

Previously, the app tracked and attached geographic information for all messages within a conversation by default. The new change makes it possible for you to send your location only when you want to, on a message by message basis.

Many people were not aware of the default location tracking setting until last week, when a Harvard computer science student launched a Chrome extension that can plot Messenger location data on a map.

The app made it possible to pinpoint the sender's location to less than a meter, according to Aran Khanna's Medium blog post.

The other problem, he adds, is the subtle placement of the feature within the app, which made it easy for people to forget they're sharing where they're located.

"It seems so harmless to attach a location with a single message, but the problem is over time the information from these messages adds up," Khanna writes.

There are some benefits to sharing location. If you're trying to find your way to a friend's birthday party, this feature eliminates the hassle of switching between apps to see where you are as you're chatting.

Thursday's change also allows you to find and share places even if you're not there, which is a nice benefit of the tool.

It also allows Facebook to build more location-based features into Messenger, such as business reviews.

Story by Hope King, CNN

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