Facebook lets users track friends with controversial location feature

22/04/2014

Facebook has launched ‘nearby friends’, a feature that lets users track their friends location in real-time- causing a privacy stir in the process.

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The tool uses a smartphone's GPS system to tell a user which Facebook friends are nearby, if they have the feature turned on.

Rather than share your exact location, it will only show that they are nearby, within roughly half a mile. Users can choose to manually share a more precise location.

The idea, Facebook says, is to make it easier to find friends when you're meeting at a specific, but hard-to-find location.

In a statement, the fim said:

"Today we are beginning to roll out a new feature called Nearby Friends that you can choose to turn on. Nearby Friends helps you discover which friends are nearby or on the go. 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. 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 Nearby Friends feature will be turned off by default, so people shouldn't expect to broadcast their location unknowingly to their Facebook friends and acquaintances.

It also won't be available to users under 18, said Andrea Vaccari, product manager at Facebook who has been working on Nearby Friends for the past two years. He says the tool "makes it easy to join your friends in the real world." If you want to.

"Once you start bringing this to a mass audience, you need to be cautious," Polonetsky said. "So inadvertent oversharing is not possible."

Read the official blog launch here

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