Facebook’s Nearby Friends Takes Cyber-Stalking to a New Level

 In Facebook, Social Media

Facebook just got a whole lot creepier. Last Thursday, the social media giant announced Nearby Friends, a new software package (built into Facebook’s mobile app) that will allow you to see where your friends are up to about a half mile away. So, instead of asking your friends where they are or if they’d like to be left alone, you can now terrify them by mysteriously popping up at their exact location at any time of day. This new application could have widespread implications for Facebook stalkers, users and pranksters alike. But first, let’s touch on the basics.

What is Nearby Friends?

Nearby Friends allows you to see which of your friends are close by, and share your precise location, through the use of the geo location technology in your phone. Facebook wants to prompt more users to meet offline and expand their brand presence. According to Andrea Vaccari, the product manager of the new app, “The mission of Facebook is to connect people, to bring people together. Nearby Friends sort of pushes that forward by making it a little easier to find new opportunities to meet your friends while you’re out and about.”

How Do I Keep People from Finding Me?

Everyone has someone on their Facebook that they can barely stand seeing online, let alone in person. Now imagine that person has access to your location, and things get a little scary. The good news is that the new app is opt-in only. Meaning if you want to use Nearby Friends, then you will have to turn on the feature, as it will not be turned on without your approval. Facebook has also made the function stalker proof. Within the app, exists a timer that will turn off location services after a time of inactivity (to be determined by the user). The app’s activity log will also track a user’s whereabouts for a period of time. Users will have full control over what their friends will and will not be able to see on the app.

Why Would I Use This?

Just like Spiderman’s tag line, “With great power comes great responsibility,” so too will the use of Nearby Friends. Users alone will decide whether or not they will use the function for good or ill. Facebook predicts that the feature will be useful for those people who are trying to find one another in large places with no street addresses (i.e. malls, shopping centers and theme parks). Trying to explain where you are in a theme park can sometimes feel like you’re attempting to describe where you are in the desert, “Uhhhh… I’m by the two large sand dunes.” It’s almost impossible, but with the help of Nearby Friends, the process becomes quite a bit simpler. The app has not launched in all areas yet, but Facebook has slowly begun to integrate the software into their mobile platform in certain parts of the country. Be prepared for change, but also know that the feature will not be used for business functions, such as targeted ads, and will only turn on when you want it on.

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