Facebook Camera app really, really wants to know your location

Facebook's slick new camera app goes on strike if you don't give it access to your location. Here's why.

Screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET

Since Facebook released its new "Camera" mobile app yesterday, there's been speculation as to why the social network would buy Instagram and then release its own very similar app. There's been even more curiosity about why the new app has such an interest in where you are while using it.

As users have noticed, the Camera app requires iOS' Location Services to be turned on so it can access your locally stored photos, and the app won't let you upload a shot if you simply deny it location access from the get-go.

According to software developer Joshua Debner, who pinged BuzzFeed, about the behavior, the location services requirement is "an iOS limitation in order to be able to multiselect. Otherwise you would have had to pick one photo at a time..."

That feature is what currently separates the Facebook Camera app from the photo uploading feature in Facebook's usual iPhone and iPad app. There you can only upload one shot at a time.

iOS and Android app Gifboom uses the same API, and has its own explainer on the matter:

GifBoom uses a special photo/video picker to enable you to select multiple photos at the same time. The iOS API that enables this functionality requires permissions to Location Service, presumably because photos in iOS have location information attached. GifBoom just needs to access the image itself, so we do not read or write any location information.

In Facebook's case, the standalone Camera app can use that location information to let other users know where you were when you took the photo, but it isn't on by default.

CNET's Bridget Carey received confirmation that you can use the app even if you're concerned by giving it access to your location. The work around: Just make sure that when you take photos with the iPhone camera, you've turned off location permissions. No GPS data is then attached to your photos. Then you can go into Facebook Camera and upload them location-free.

iOS Location Services is turned on by default, but it can be disabled in the device settings, and users can choose which apps are allowed to access Location Settings. Also, while it will be little comfort to those truly paranoid about location privacy, users of the app can choose whether to share a photo's location data when posting it to Facebook.

Updated at 5:24 p.m. PT to clarify how iOS handles location with additional background.

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