Facebook has released an entirely new tool without telling anyone about it, which is interesting, because the tool won’t work unless people consciously use it. Find Friends Nearby (initially called Friendshake) is a mobile tool that works both as a browser app and an integrated part of the Facebook app on iOS and Android.
Going to the website http://m.facebook.com/friendshake/ from a mobile browser brings you to the Find Friends Nearby page, where you’ll be prompted with the always disquieting “Facebook would like to track your location.” Should you approve, you’ll be able to see other Facebook users in your immediate vicinity. The catch is that the only people who will show up on the list will be the people logged into that site on their web browser, though it will probably see wider use once Facebook improves integration of the tool with its mobile app.
It could be seen as a little creepy, but then again, if you’re one to consider it creepy, you’re probably not going to be one to use Find Friends Nearby. In that case, things will go on as they have before, with you receiving creepy and unsolicited friend requests the old-fashioned way.
According to a report from TechCrunch, the purpose behind the release of Find Friends Nearby is a fairly benign one. Should you happen to meet a bunch of new people all at once (first day moving into the dorms, concerts, dinners), Find Friends Nearby makes it easier to send friend requests. All you would need to do is use Find Friends Nearby and tap on each person’s name, rather than type in each name individually and send requests.
But, given Facebook’s history with privacy concerns, it’s worth keeping an eye on this new tool, to make sure it stays off for the people who aren’t interested in being found.