Facebook wants to help you find your friends in reality, not just online. In case you’re not checking social media enough, Facebook will now let you help you see which of your friends are actually nearby around you with the addition of “Nearby Friends “. Don’t panic though if you want to keep that secret, you have to actually opt to turn it on before it will show your location. If you don’t turn Nearby Friends on in your Facebook options, your journey will as anonymous as ever, assuming you don’t check in to FourSquare, the D.C.-based Social Radar app or any of the other million location-based social media apps.
As usual when it rolls out new ideas, Facebook’s suggestions on how to use the option are remarkably innocent and bland.
“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,” wrote product manager Andrea Vaccari on Facebook’s blog. “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.”
It’s all too easy to imagine less cheerful scenarios though. It’s one reason Senator Al Franken (D-MN) has been championing measures to stop stalking through GPS-enabled apps. Facebook does take care of most of his concerns by being an opt-in function and by letting you limit who can see where you are with Nearby Friends.
“Sharing your location with Nearby Friends goes two ways — you and your friends both have to turn on Nearby Friends and choose to share with each other to see when you’re nearby. Your friends will only be able to see that you’re nearby if you share this info with them and vice versa,” Vaccari wrote.
Still, accidents and hacking do happen and there’s no such thing as perfect security. It’s definitely a point in Facebook’s favor that there are as many security measures as they’ve already added.
Facebook’s not exactly new to the game of seeing a trend and turning it into its own. Sometimes that’s buying a company like Instagram and sometimes that’s coming up with its own version, but this definitely takes it into new territory.
Nearby Friends has arrived the same day as Facebook’s new “traveling to” option on status updates. Depending on where you’re going it will show a special icon like the Las Vegas welcome sign, the Statue of Liberty or just an airplane icon. One more way for you to help Facebook keep tabs on you, or at least help you find friends at the movies.