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Facebook 'Nearby Friends' Can Reveal Your Location

Facebook product manager Andrea Vaccari updated the social website with news of a potential creep-fest new feature called Nearby Friends. As the name implies, Facebook will display your physical whereabouts to nearby Facebook friends, and vice versa. The good news is that this feature is completely optional.

"If you turn on Nearby Friends, you'll occasionally be notified when friends are nearby, so you can get in touch with them and meet up," Vaccari writes. "For example, when you're headed to the movies, Nearby Friends will let you know if friends are nearby so you can see the movie together or meet up afterward."

The service, which will roll out in the coming weeks, will allow users to choose who can see him/her when they're nearby, such as all friends, close friends, or specific friends on a list. Sharing with nearby friends goes both ways too: both Facebook members must approve the connection.

"If you turn on Nearby Friends, you can also choose to share a precise location with the particular friends you choose for a set period of time, such as the next hour," Vaccari writes. "When you share your precise location, the friend you choose will see exactly where you are on a map, which helps you find each other. Then you can meet up and spend time together."

That "precise location" also means that Nearby Friends users can see that you're out of town, so the only way to hide your whereabouts is to turn the Nearby Friends feature off. Honestly, friends don't need to see every exact location you're at, right?

"When you see a friend visiting a place you've been, it's the perfect opportunity to send a recommendation for a great restaurant," Vacccari adds. "You can also make last-minute plans to meet up with a friend who happens to be in the same place you're headed to."

Obviously, the intent of Nearby Friends is to help friends find each other offline. Vaccari was working on similar technology at startup Glancee before Facebook acquired the company in 2012. Vaccari grew up in Italy, and found it difficult to meet new people when she moved to the United States. She believes that more people will be willing to try out the new service when it involves their friends.

According to Mashable, Facebook was testing the feature with a "vast majority" of the company's over 6,500 employees for nearly 18 months. During that closed beta, Facebook used employee feedback to shape the service, and to sharpen the notification algorithm. At first the notifications were a bit excessive, and has been scaled back as the product evolved.

Vaccari says that the feature will adapt as it learns more about the user. That said, don't expect a notification to be made about a nearby friend if he/she never leaves the house because he/she pecks on a keyboard all day. The data Facebook collects is stored on the company's servers, but can be deleted by the user at any time.

Nearby Friends is opt-in because Facebook knows that many people fear data collection, and don't want everyone on Facebook to know where they physically are. "We are totally OK with people not wanting to opt in right away," Vaccari says.

Nearby Friends will be available on Android and iPhone in the U.S. over the coming weeks.

  • Zombie615
    What is with all this facebook crap. I mean seriously.... can you not call your friend if you want to see what they are up too. They are basically just masking this to make it easy for government agencies, marketing, and weirdo's to watch your every move. Exactly why I don't do the whole social thing on the internet. What happened to the good old days when a phone was a phone.
    Reply
  • vpoko
    What is with all this facebook crap. I mean seriously.... can you not call your friend if you want to see what they are up too. They are basically just masking this to make it easy for government agencies, marketing, and weirdo's to watch your every move. Exactly why I don't do the whole social thing on the internet. What happened to the good old days when a phone was a phone.

    I agree that it's a pretty pointless feature, but since Facebook has been tracking location data for years, this isn't anything new as far as the government and marketer tracking.
    Reply
  • g-unit1111
    RIP privacy and anonymity - beginning of time - 2014AD. You will be missed.
    Reply
  • dark_knight33
    'We are totally OK with people not wanting to opt in right away," Vaccari says.'

    Because eventually, it doesn't matter what you want, you will just be opt'ed in.
    Reply
  • zhunt99
    If this goes through, I wouldn't be surprised if everyone suddenly became friends with the NSA on facebook.
    Reply
  • pills161
    What happened to just having a simple site/app where you can share photos and updates with friends and family? Does anyone else think Facebook is just completely out of control now and way too big for what it's intended purpose was? Why would anybody really care about looking at a map to see where all their "friends" are actually currently located?
    Reply
  • Zombie615
    13124943 said:
    'We are totally OK with people not wanting to opt in right away," Vaccari says.'

    Because eventually, it doesn't matter what you want, you will just be opt'ed in.

    I be damned if I get opt'ed into this crap. I'll go off the grid. I'll throw my smartphone into a river an find some place miles away from anything that runs off a battery. Take that government. Better bring your choppers an night vision if you want to find out where I'm at an what I'm doing.

    All this new technology every year that is suppose to benefit society in one way or another is garbage. Only thing it's doing is improving the leaders of the worlds ability to take robotic type control over every human on the planet. Soon we will be worse than just a statistic. We'll be a drone just walking around doing whatever they want us to do with the touch of a button.
    Reply
  • dalethepcman
    "The data Facebook collects is stored on the company's servers, but can be deleted by the user at any time."

    Who do I not believe this...
    Reply
  • Zombie615
    13125328 said:
    "The data Facebook collects is stored on the company's servers, but can be deleted by the user at any time."

    Who do I not believe this...

    Well you sir are blinded by the big sign saying technology is user-friendly an 100% safe and in no way will ever violate your privacy without permission. <<<< all lies....

    Reply
  • ultameca
    People still sue facebook?
    Reply