Gather round, kids, because today’s #WTFWednesday is scary. Like walking in on your 85-year-old grandma in the tub scary. We already know how Facebook Messenger allows users to share their location, but a disturbing Chrome extension shows just how creepy that can be.
Marauders Map was a Chrome extension that helped Facebook users track the exact location of their friends at any given moment, anywhere, anytime. It put the eep in creep!
More Than Just a Really, Really Scary GPS
Named after the magical map in Harry Potter, Marauders Map could track a person’s geographic location within a meter’s accuracy. That’s not just tracking someone to their house; it’s tracking them to a specific room. If that wasn’t scary enough, the extension made it possible to track people you don’t even know if they were in one of your group chats.
You’re in a Facebook study chat with a bunch of your classmates. The creepy guy who sits in the corner and likes to light things on fire is in it too, and now, thanks to Marauders Map, he can track your every move. He knows when you’re in the cafeteria, when you’re at your best friend’s house, even when you’re in the BATHROOM. Who’s that lurkin’ outside your window? Oh, just that creep Sam from Biology.
Why Would Anyone Invent Such A Creepy App?
Aran Khanna, a computer science student at Harvard, developed the extension to prove just how invasive social media networks can be. In a blog post released on Medium he wrote:
I decided to write this extension [sic], because we are constantly being told how we are losing privacy with the increasing digitization of our lives, however the consequences never seem tangible. With this code you can see for yourself the potentially invasive usage of the information you share, and decide for yourself if this is something you should worry about.
Roll the sad music, folks, because Facebook canceled Khanna’s internship days after Marauders Map went viral. According to Facebook officials, Khanna violated the site’s user agreement by exposing sensitive data. (It’s important to note Facebook changed its geolocation terms shortly after Marauders Map was released.)
The fact that this extension could track a user’s location so accurately is scary. And the fact that you could track people you aren’t friends with is even scarier. But the fact Facebook obviously wasn’t okay with someone leaking this information is scariest.
Nothing New Here
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time a social media platform has been used to spy on its users. The so-called “anonymous” social media app Whisper shared the location of its users with the Pentagon. FourSquare was found to track its users even when the app was turned off; and Instagram, with its “Name This Location” feature, automatically geotagged photos even if you didn’t ask it to.
One More Reason to Turn Location Sharing Off
If these revelations have taught us anything, it’s that social media companies do very little to protect your privacy. Instead, it’s as if they see your private information as just another statistic to share with other companies.
It’s why smartphones and tablets come with location services enabled by default, why apps automatically geotag your stuff, and why businesses look at a user’s geographic location.
Don’t become a statistic. And don’t let anyone find you. Do yourself a favor and turn your location settings off already!
ExpressVPN’s #WTFWednesday brings you weird, shocking, and creepy stories about data privacy—pulled straight from the news. Think your privacy is yours? Think again. You will feel uncomfortable. You will be outraged. You will think, “WTF?!”
Like this post? Hate it? Read more horror stories about the invasion of your privacy in our #WTFWednesday archive.