Over the next couple of weeks your iOS and Android Facebook apps will probably be getting a new social feature called Facebook Nearby Friends. The purpose of this new feature is to share your whereabouts with Facebook friends. But in contrast to previous apps that have tried to tackle the same problem, instead of broadcasting your EXACT location on a map, Facebook Nearby Friends just lets you know if someone is in proximity to you.
To turn the feature on, open your Facebook app on your mobile phone, tap “More”, then choose “Nearby Friends.” The next step is crucial, because this selects who you are sharing with. Choices include Friends, Close Friends and any Facebook lists you have created.
In addition to showing your proximity to selected friends, you can also choose specific friends to whom your exact location will be broadcast for a couple of hours.
With the penetration that Facebook has, I can see that this will be an excellent tool for meeting up with friends in real life.
The bottom line question is is this safe? So, given Facebook’s history of playing fast and furious with privacy, it’s a valid question. The biggest issues I have with are its use by underage kids who may not really know everyone on their friends list. And we all know that even though Facebook requires all members to be thirteen and over, many kids (even with the consent of their parents) are on Facebook at a younger age.
The other concern is the messiness of keeping track of which friends are on which lists, and who do you actually want to share your location with? With the speed that Facebook changes their settings and privacy rules, who among us is 100% sure that they understand all the possible permutations.
What do you think?
Meanwhile, here’s a video produced by TechCrunch that shows you the Facebook Nearby features.