Is Chatting on Facebook Traceable?

Location services tell your friends where you are, but can be disabled.
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When you chat with another person on Facebook, some of your data is collected and stored. Additionally, your Facebook settings may be configured to display your current location by default. You can turn off location services to prevent people from seeing where you are, but that will not stop Facebook from collecting this data. However, it will not be shared with any other users, and your friends cannot use your messages to trace your location.

1 What Information Facebook Receives

Facebook collects a wide variety of data from you, from the user profiles you visit and the pages you view, to your location and the locations you visit. It keeps track of all apps and games you use, when you are accessing Facebook or using the mobile app, as well as any data you post on your Timeline. Further, it records the browser you are using, your operating system and your IP address -- which is always collected from your posts and chat messages regardless of whether you have location services enabled. If you are using chat from a mobile device, information about your device may be collected along with your current location.

2 How It Is Used and Stored

Some data that Facebook collects is used only temporarily, such as your GPS location. Facebook may only use that temporarily to find out where you are in relation to any nearby friends or to govern which ads to show you. Other information, such as how you access Facebook and what devices you use, is of a more permanent nature. Facebook keeps IP and device information until you close your account; however, only Facebook itself has access to this data, and it won't be used unless required by law enforcement. This means that your friends and other people you chat with cannot to find your location via your message logs.

3 Turn Off Location Information

While you can't stop Facebook from collecting this information, you can prevent your friends from seeing your location in chat. Facebook may be posting your location by default, but you can disable this setting. If you have an Android device, open the Settings menu, tap "App Settings," tap "Messenger location services" and uncheck the box next to "Location Is On." On an iOS device, open the Settings menu, tap "Privacy," then toggle "Location Services" at the top from On to Off. This will prevent the display of your GPS location in all chat logs, although information in past chat logs will remain.

4 Deleting Saved Information

The only way to completely delete all the information Facebook has stored from your account is to delete your account completely (see Resources). Deleting your account completely is different than deactivating your account, and cannot be undone. Even after your account is deleted, Facebook may hold some of your data for up to 90 days. Also note that this does not delete information that other users have on their accounts; for example, users you have chatted with will still have all your messages with in their chat logs.

Based in California, James Wright has been writing since 1998. Wright's articles have been published on various websites with a focus on technical fields such as computers and the Internet, and were also featured in a now-retired publication for an online artistic community. Wright studied English, journalism, politics and psychology at Riverside Community College.