Facebook’s New “Nearby Friends” Could Spell T-r-o-u-b-l-e.

Apr 29, 2014

Tags: , , ;

Facebook has a new feature that allows you to get closer to your friends – literally. The social media network will be sending notices to alert its users via mobile devices when they are in close proximity with “friends." This element not only signifies a step in filling the gap between online interactions and face-to-face interactions, but another hit to internet safety as well.

The latest addition will have to be approved by each user, giving their permission to have Facebook track them constantly. It will be displayed separately and will be labeled as “Nearby Friends.”

Facebook plans to gradually introduce the service in the next few weeks. There will be a message sent to users, notifying them of the new changes.

However, this “Nearby Friends” feature presents new issues to those concerned with privacy, stalking or cyberbullying. Most teens are not too careful about filtering who they “friend” on Facebook. While users should be prudent in whom they accept, Facebook should also regularly remind everyone of who can see their location.  

If a teen isn’t careful, a stalker, sexual predator, or cyberbully could easily be put within reach. The issue could then become more about “life security” rather than mere “web security.”

A representative of Facebook reassured that the company is fully considering the privacy concerns, confirming that its users will be notified regularly about Nearby Friends and that the feature is being developed under the watch of the FTC and other regulators.

However, Facebook isn’t venturing into an uncharted territory. Other apps like Tinder, Foursquare, Cloak, and Radar employ the same tracking methods to expand people’s connection from online to real-life.

The app has been on trial mode by Facebook employees for the past few months. There have been positive experiences of friends connecting in San Francisco airport and friends discovering they’re vacationing at the same resort in Lake Tahoe.

While the new feature aims to develop personal relationships, a valid concern for privacy still exists. Parents need to be aware to the feature’s release and be sure they know who their children are friending.

Parents can monitor a teen’s friends and comments with Net Nanny Social. For more information, visit www.netnanny.com/social.

Source: http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2014/04/17/facebook-to-notify-users-when-friends-are-nearby/?mod=djemTECH_h