The Facebook empire has announced its next feature: a setting which allows users to let their friends see their location. Always. The mobile feature, called Nearby Friends, maintains a steady stream of location information, so that users can track each other constantly.
CNN noted that, “In a refreshing change, the new Nearby Friends feature is not turned on by default.” Many Facebook updates have been added automatically, requiring users to opt-out manually if they did not want to use the new feature. This one might have pushed the limits, had Facebook chosen to start automatically broadcasting the location of users without their knowledge or permission.
GPS technology has been widely implemented in the tech world since it first became part of mobile phone technology in 2004. In the past few years, location technology has become implemented into hundreds of apps, becoming a part of our everyday phone usage. Facebook locations services tag posts with their location. In contrast to apps with “check-in” features, this feature constantly collects location information.
Now, users can choose to share their location at all times, even when not actively using Facebook. However, location will only be shared between users who opt-in to Nearby Friends, and who sees your location, like other privacy settings, is a custom-chosen list. There is also an option to create a custom group, to help with coordinating group events, etc. The feature even keeps track of your location history.
The term ‘facebook stalking’ has become a widely used, completely non-serious term to describe viewing a friend’s profile simply to look at their pictures or see what they’ve been up to. Although not intended to carry the negative (even criminal) connotations of true stalking, users of the term recognize the irony, as we all see the similarity. However, curiosity over the mundane details of a friend, or even an acquaintance’s life, has become completely normal. We all recognize that in creating a Facebook profile, we give anyone within our privacy settings’ limits permission to ‘stalk’ us. Facebook is taking this to the next level, allowing us to choose to make ourselves extremely easy to stalk in a literal sense. By opting-in to Nearby Friends, we allow any number of people to track every move we make.
While it may be convenient to see at a glance which of your friends is on campus for the weekend, for example, do we really want to broadcast our location? Only time will tell if Facebook users truly appreciate this feature, but it seems this adds just one more layer to the ‘want-to-know,’ which rapidly expands to include just about everything.