A few days ago I shared how your iPhone keeps tabs on where you are. Well, Facebook does too. “Nearby Friends” on Facebook mobile lets friends know that you’re nearby. If you have the Facebook app on your phone (iPhone or Android) you have this feature available. Nearby Friends is an opt-in feature; meaning, it is OFF unless you turn the feature ON.
Let’s take a closer look at Nearby Friends, including what it might mean for teens.
How Nearby Friends works on the Facebook mobile app
Nearby friends is found within the FB app on the “More” tab at the bottom. Click the “more” tab and then you’ll see Nearby Friends. If turned off, you’ll be prompted to turn it on.
Once on, you’ll see a list of Nearby Friends – those on your Facebook friends list who have ALSO decided to turn on this feature. (This means you won’t see all your friends listed here).
(Faces blurred because they don’t want to admit they know me ;-))
Click the settings icon in the upper right (as in the screenshot above). This is where you can choose who can see your location. For example if you have set up lists in Facebook, you can choose to share your location with just that particular list, such as Close Friends. The default is “Friends” as shown on the left; just select and then choose from your available lists.
You can also share your precise location with a friend, if you wish. For example you might see that a friend is nearby and you want to meet up with them. Click the arrow icon next to their name and then choose how long they can see your every move.
This video from Tech Crunch shows exactly how this works.
How to turn off Nearby Friends in Facebook
If you’ve used Nearby Friends and decided it’s not for you, just turn the feature off. Follow the same steps (More tab > Nearby Friends > Settings) and then slide the slider to the left until the slider is no longer green.
The tiny text on the screen lets you know that even though you have turned off Nearby Friends, the app is still building a “history of your precise location even when you’re not using the app”. If you feel this is a bit intrusive, take a look at the Location Settings.
On the Location Settings screen, slide the slider to the left to turn off Location History. This doesn’t delete your previously saved history; that is still lurking around on your Activity Log. While you are the only who can see this log (it is not shared with friends) you can remove your history if you prefer.
To get to the history log, click the “More” tab again, scroll all the way down and find Activity Log. Choose the Filter at the top, and select Location History (It’s near the bottom of the list). Once selected, you’ll have a filtered view of your activity that only shows location history. Select “Clear Location History” (shown here).
Learn more about Facebook Nearby friends on the Facebook help page.
Teens and Nearby Friends
For those with teens who are active on Facebook, this would be a great time to review their Friends lists. Teens are more likely to have a large number of Facebook friends. Their friends list is probably more of a “random acquaintance” list. They could be sharing their whereabouts with hundreds of people. Unless they are selective when adding friends they might be making their general location known to more people than you’d like (or they even realize).
Again, this is an opt-in feature, so talk with your teen about whether they should use this feature if they have Facebook on their phone. If they do, perhaps limiting the sharing to “Close Friends” would be a wise approach.
So what do you think? Does this feature sound like a good idea? If you think you might find this useful, like the young hipsters in the TechCrunch video meeting up for coffee, you may want to turn this feature on. I only see value if most of your friends use Facebook on the go and also turn this feature on. If you are concerned about privacy and sharing your location data with others – even if they are your friends – or you don’t think you’ll ever use it, then leave it off.