Lesson Learned: Facebook's New Friend-Finding Feature is Optional

Facebook is giving the whole location-based friend-finding thing another shot. Almost two years after launching a Find Friends Nearby feature before quickly pulling it, the network is rolling out Nearby Friends. The difference? Way more control over privacy.

Facebook is giving the whole location-based friend-finding thing another shot. Almost two years after launching a Find Friends Nearby feature before quickly pulling it, the network is rolling out Nearby Friends. The difference? Way more control over privacy.

Facebook launched the new feature Thursday to help you--yep, you guessed it--find nearby friends. Nearby Friends uses your phone's location to alert you when people you're friends with on the network are in the area. It's basically the opposite of Cloak, the app that uses your location to alert you when your "friends" are nearby so you can hide from them. (You could presumably use the Facebook feature in a similar way, but I'm guessing that wasn't the network's intention.)

Nearby Friends does more than just tell you when a friend is within two miles of your house. You can also share the location you plan to go to and how long you'll be there for with friends of your choosing.

In a Thursday blog post, Facebook product manager Andrea Vaccari cited an example of telling a couple friends that you plan to head over to San Francisco's popular Dolores Park for the next few hours. They can pinpoint where you are because an icon of your face (similar to a Chat Head) will appear on a map with your precise location. Kind of sounds like that bespoke app Dolo, created by a Facebook engineer to help San Franciscans find each other at Dolores Park, except more sophisticated and with broader appeal.

Proving that it's learned from its mistakes, Facebook made the feature opt-in. Don't want your friends to know where you are? Don't turn on Nearby Friends. Simple and easy. But it also means Nearby Friends might not be a big hit, because the feature is tucked away in your settings menu. Still, that's better than angering the masses with a privacy gaffe, which is what sharing your location with your entire friends list would be.

Nearby Friends is rolling out to iOS and Android users over the next few weeks. We'll see if it catches on.

This story, "Lesson Learned: Facebook's New Friend-Finding Feature is Optional" was originally published by IDG News Service .

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