Facebook Nearby Friends (iPhone screenshot 001)

Social networking giant Facebook is bound to stir controversy all over again as it’s just introduced a new friend-tracking feature. Similar to Apple’s free Find My Friends iOS app, Facebook’s Nearby Friends basically notifies you when your friends are nearby.

It’s a rather radical idea, one Facebook said Thursday was designed to encourage people to “meet up and spend time together” in real life. Go figure. Learn more about Facebook’s Find My Friends right below the fold…

As depicted top of post, Facebook will push an alert to your Lock screen if there are friends nearby.

“For example, when you’re headed to the movies, Nearby Friends will let you know if friends are nearby so you can see the movie together or meet up afterward,” explains the company.

To turn push notifications on or off for Nearby Friends, visit Account Settings > Notifications > Mobile Push.

According to Facebook, these alerts will be issued “occasionally.”

The new feature is optional and users have full control over who can see if they’re nearby or on the move. Other people will only see this information when they also share theirs with you.

Facebook Nearby Friends (Android screenshot 001)

Facebook explains:

Sharing your location with Nearby Friends goes two ways — you and your friends both have to turn on Nearby Friends and choose to share with each other to see when you’re nearby. Your friends will only be able to see that you’re nearby if you share this info with them and vice versa.

Should you want, Nearby Friends allows you to share your precise location with a particular friend(s) for a set period of time. In order to share your precise location with someone, just tap the compass icon to the right of their name and choose whether you want to share your GPS coordinates for an hour, several hours or until you choose to stop.

You can also include a note when you share your location with a friend, which they will receive when they get the notification that you’re sharing your precise location with them.

This allows the other person or a group of friends to see exactly where you are on a map, in case you need to find each other in the physical world. Again, much like Apple’s Find My Friends.

Facebook Nearby Friends (iPhone screenshot 002)

It’s nice that Facebook does not opt in users to Nearby Friends by default.

You’ll have to opt in manually and turn on the feature yourself if you’re interested in giving it a whirl.

And when on the go, Nearby Friends will tell the friends who’re using the feature that you’re traveling. “You’ll be able to see the city or neighborhood they are in, including on their profile,” Facebook explains.

Nearby Friends is a staggered release and they’ve just started rolling it out today so it’s going to take a while until each and every one of the 1.3 billion Facebook users gains the feature. “Nearby Friends will be available on Android and iPhone in the US over the coming weeks,” says Facebook.

Now you know why Facebook’s iOS app has been hurting your battery: it’s been tracking your moves 24/7. Yes, Facebook for iPhone has indeed been found to drain your battery by constantly polling your location in the background.

Facebook hinted as much (emphasis mine):

Location History is a setting that allows Facebook to build a history of your precise location. When Location History is on, Facebook will add your precise location to the Location History section of your activity log, even if you leave the app.

The drastic solution to preventing the Facebook battery drain: disable Location Services and Background App Refresh for Facebook in your iOS Settings.

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Speaking of Location History, know that turning on Nearby Friends also turns on Location History, but don’t worry – only you can see a history of your movement. “When you turn off Location History, Facebook will stop adding new information to the Location History section of your activity log,” explains the team.

Yes, you can easily delete either individual entries or your whole Location History.

It being a backend update, Nearby Friends shouldn’t require an iOS app update. The feature will appear right in your News Feed so keep your eyes peeled.

To learn more about Nearby Friends, check out Facebook’s help resources.

Will you be using Facebook’s Nearby Friends?