A new Facebook feature quietly made its way into the mobile app world this morning. The publicly available “Find Friends Nearby” application has already been dubbed a “stalker app” by many and yet, a number of Facebook users are excited to jump on what could be the next big thing in the mobile space.
Find Friends Nearby makes it easy for you to send a Friend Request to someone you meet outside – at a concert, bar, or even a business networking event. The social networking website has aimed its features on building existing relationships, and with this feature, Facebook is prompting users to build their network further. It allows to you make more connections with people who are around you and even those who share similar interests. Cool, right? But, there’s a problem. While the app uses your phone’s GPS to find friends in your vicinity, it also allows strangers who are in close physical proximity to view your profile. That’s right, even strangers. The two-tap method pulls up a list of profiles nearby you who could be potential friends, but in this case, potential stalkers as well.
Since its public launch, there has been no official announcement regarding the app. However Facebook developer, Ryan Patterson, is seen floating across technology blogs and websites stating his hopes for the application’s use…
“For me, the ideal use case for this product is the one where when you’re out with a group of people whom you’ve recently met and want to stay in contact with. Facebook search might be effective, or sharing your vanity addresses or business cards, but this tool provides a really easy way to exchange contact information with multiple people with minimal friction.” – TechCrunch
Facebook has been plagued with numerous privacy issues in the past, and this doesn’t seem to be the right response to the public’s concern. Though Facebook users are feeling a little more reassured that this feature is used on an opt-in basis, a definite rarity on the company’s behalf. For those well-versed with Facebook’s past privacy issues, opting out of this app would be a no-brainer. However, younger users and children may not be as familiar with the possible breach of privacy when using this feature, and ultimately, the potential dangers that it ensues. The uses mentioned by Patterson definitely open up a refreshing way of interaction and efficient networking , but the backlash from users on its privacy dangers is yet to come.
[Update: Tuesday, June 26]
Just hours after the Find Friends Nearby feature went live, Facebook decided to pull access to it for users. A spokesperson for Facebook told Wired Magazine that “this wasn’t a formal release” and just a product that “a few engineers were testing”. The application is still in its preliminary stages and will only be mentioned at its formal release, that is if it is released. Facebook’s spokesperson has said that many features undergo testing, however only a few make the cut. Although this feature still has much progress to make, it seems likely that it was pulled due to the large amounts of negative feedback it received on Monday.
The next time we hear of the application, it will be during a formal release, according to Facebook’s spokesperson.
Let us know your thoughts on this feature in the comments section…
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