A new Facebook function will allow us to know where our friends are in real time.
Our phone always knows where we are. And now, if we want, our Facebook friends will also know where we are.
Facebook is introducing a feature called Nearby Friends that takes advantage of that constant stream of location information to allow friends to track each other in real time.
The idea is to make it easier for people to meet up in the real world, so they can have in-person conversations rather than comment threads; and temporarily replace Likes and Haha with real eye contact and laughs. In-person encounters are also an excellent opportunity to take a selfie (self-portrait) with friends and upload it to Facebook-owned Instagram.
Unlike previous occasions, the new Facebook feature will not be activated by default.
Our friends will not be able to see where we are unless we activate the function in the Facebook settings. The fact that Facebook has made this potentially invasive new feature optional suggests that it might have learned something from mistakes and privacy issues it had in the past.
Once the function is activated, we can choose to share our general location with all our Facebook friends, with our closest friends or with a personalized list of people with whom we feel more comfortable. To further minimize potential harassment, our location will only be shared with other people who are also using the feature and who have chosen to share their location with us.
When enabled, the feature displays a list of approved Facebook friends who also use the feature and their approximate location. A notification can tell us how many friends are near us. Just open the application to see a list of friends, the neighborhood or city where they are, how many kilometers away they are from our current location and a timestamp that indicates when they were there.
We will also have the option to share our exact location with specific friends. This can be very useful for coordinating large groups at concerts or for finding someone in a busy area. Our friends will be able to see a small image of our face on a map for a certain period of time.
The new feature will be available in the Facebook apps for iOS and Android, but will initially work only for select locations.