The biggest social network of the world introduced a new feature on Thursday, which enables Facebook users within the US see which of their friends are nearby. The feature has been given the title of Nearby Friends and this is an optional tool i.e. it can only be used by individuals who choose to turn it on. The GPS system of the smartphone will be used by this feature for showing which friends of the individual is in close proximity, provided that the feature is turned on by them. Instead of sharing their exact location of the users, the feature will only show that they are nearby like a mile away.
However, it will be up to the users to share their precise location with a friend they want to meet. The feature will tell the friends where you are located whether it is at an airport, park or the city block. The default settings will only show the accurate location of the users to their friends for an hour, but individuals can change the time if they want. Another advantage is that people will not be broadcasting their location to their Facebook acquaintances and friends unknowingly because the Nearby Friends feature is not turned on by default.
The product manager of Facebook, Andrea Vaccari, who has been working on this feature for the past two years, said that Nearby Friends would not be available to individuals under 18. He said that the feature has been introduced to help people in meeting their friends in the real world only if they want to. There are a lot of precautions that have been built-in in the feature. A different approach is being used by Facebook this time around, even though previously it has always thought of moving fast and breaking things.
With Nearby Friends, the social network is trying to avoid the privacy fiascos that surface every time the social network makes any changes to its service. According to privacy groups, ‘Ship love’ is the new motto of the social network and it can be seen in the cautious and deliberate rollout of the new feature. According to them, Facebook has finally come to realize that they have to implement changes in such a way that it doesn’t come off as a surprise to its one billion user base, especially when it is pertaining to privacy or location of the users. The social network has to be careful when it is introducing something for the mass audience.
Nonetheless, all this cautiousness means that the feature will not be available to a lot of users right away once it is rolled out on Thursday, but will be available in the upcoming weeks and months. Initially, this feature will be provided to individuals who are more likely to appreciate it such as those that frequently ‘check in’ various restaurants, bars etc. However, users aren’t forced to use Nearby Friends like its Messenger App so this feature might not be used by people widely.