These past few months, we’ve been noticing efforts from Facebook to mix things up on mobile devices a little bit, like revealing Paper back in January, or the recent action to place a greater focus on Messenger. Today we learn of Facebook’s new plan to help smartphone users connect with their friends by leveraging the location data our phones generate, with its announcement of a feature it’s calling Nearby Friends.
With Nearby Friends activated, the Facebook app on your phone will give you a heads-up when your pals are in the same vicinity as you, letting you make plans to meet up, should you be interested. In addition to just telling you who’s in the general area, Nearby Friends can be used to share precise location data with specific users.
Facebook seems well aware of privacy concerns, and you should be pleased to know that Nearby Friends is a very much opt-in program. Not only do you have to choose to participate, but all your friends will, as well, before you can start seeing them. Controls let you specify which groups of friends will have access to your location data, so you can elect to only use Nearby Friends with some Facebook users, but not others. And if you just don’t want to be bothered for an afternoon, you can flip it off with a simple toggle.
It sounds useful enough, and we’re happy about the control Facebook’s giving users over privacy settings, but considering the functionality we’re talking about here, we can’t quite shake the feeling that Facebook’s a year or two late to the location-sharing game.
Facebook says that Nearby Friends will be going live on Android and iOS in the US in the weeks to come.