You can tell Facebook is getting a lot of experience with privacy controversies. They’re rolling out a brand new mobile feature, and they’re putting ‘optional’ right there in the headline. Probably for good reason.
Nearby Friends will tell you which of your Facebook friends are in your somewhat immediate area. You can probably imagine a few ways that might turn out badly, which is why Facebook is making it abundantly clear from the get-go that the feature is optional and opt-in. You’ll only be able to see friends if both you and your friend have Nearby Friends turned on, in which case you’ll see them show up on a list, with no specifics. It also sounds like you’ll be able to designate which of your Facebook friends can actually see you on Nearby Friends.
Should you spot a few friends nearby and want to have an impromptu meet-up (you know, if neither of you have plans or are actually busy doing something), you’ll be able to share your exact location for a limited time that you can set. Your friend will see your exact location on a map, and can quickly navigate over to where you are, if they somehow live in the same city as you and don’t know the city at all. Otherwise, you can probably just tell them you’re at the Burger King on 6th and Main or whatever, and that will probably work, too.
If both of you are on Nearby Friends and are sharing exact locations, you can also see when each other are traveling. I don’t know what good can come of that, but maybe you can think of something!
To Facebook’s credit, they’ve made the service both optional and opt-in, and they’ve been abundantly clear about it. So, if you’re concerned about privacy or Facebook collecting data about your location – well, they probably already do the latter, anyway. Regardless, if you don’t want anything to do with Nearby Friends, here’s what you do – nothing. If it sounds like something you can get some mileage out of, the new feature will be rolling out to iOS and Android devices over the next few weeks.