People who have downloaded an early version of Apple's next major iPhone software update, iOS 13, have started seeing an unexpected notification on their device: "Facebook Would Like to Use Bluetooth."
The software update, which is scheduled to launch this week, is loaded with new privacy features that aim to give users more control over what data they share with apps. Tech giants like Facebook and Google harvest data to drive better targeted advertisements, a business model that Apple CEO Tim Cook has decried as the "data industrial complex."
For users who downloaded the beta version of iOS 13 early, the update has already caught apps like Facebook and Youtube employing data-gathering methods that have presumably been in place long before the new software update shed light on them.
One of these methods is to quietly tap into a phone's Bluetooth technology to track users' physical location and their proximity to others' smartphones.
Facebook tracks and amasses personal data on users' connections with one another, and can combine proximity information gleaned from Bluetooth with GPS data to make inferences about users' relationships, TechCrunch reports.
For instance, Facebook could log the fact that you spent a few hours in close proximity with someone else at a private residence, and differentiate that relationship from other Facebook users who you only come into contact with at an office building. Beyond hoarding profile data to use for tailoring advertisements, Facebook could theoretically use the relationship-mapping data in its newly launched dating service competing with Tinder and Bumble.
iPhone users have the option to turn off location services for specific apps — including GPS, Bluetooth, and cell towers — and iOS 13 will provide a more detailed breakdown of which apps access which location services. To use Facebook Dating, however, users must agree to turn location services on.
Ahead of the iOS update, Facebook published a blog post last week explaining its location-gathering practices. The post notes that users can turn off location services to prevent the app from using Bluetooth and GPS to track them.
However, even with location services switched off, Facebook will track users' location "using things like check-ins, events, and information about your internet connection." Business Insider has reached out to Facebook for any additional comment.