Facebook have announced the gradual rollout of a new optional feature (initially in the USA) which uses your Smartphone’s GPS system to let you know when Facebook friends are nearby. The feature is only available to over 18’s but we know there are many users on Facebook who have joined with a false date of birth (particularly the under 13’s). Although the app does not give exact location and does require the user to turn the feature on, it’s a good time to have a talk with your teen (or tween) about reviewing their Facebook friend list and checking whether they have used a correct birth date when they signed on. This will become obvious if they get access to the feature, but as this is only being introduced gradually, it will be important to keep a watch .
Certain features have been built-in to preserve some aspects of privacy including that if you want to give someone an exact location you must do that manually. We believe that it will be possible also to only share the feature with specific groups of friends. At this stage we are not certain whether any targeted advertising will be part of the long-term plan, but advertising is not included in the initial rollout.
One of the benefits according to Facebook are that it is not for your close friends, but for “people you like to hang out with but may not necessarily call”. We are not convinced that is a great feature. In our view ensuring that the friends your children are connected to online are actual people that they know is a sensible approach that may provide a level of safety over having many random connections.
Of course this is sensible advice for all of us, because if you don’t know some of the people you are connected to, you can’t really know if you are putting yourself at risk .
With the glass half full, this could mean encouraging more “real time” face to face with friends, something that we encourage a world full of so much “virtual” connection. Further benefits could be locating friends and acquaintances nearby (say at the airport) and being able to organise to share a cab together, or find a friendly face when you are travelling.
Such features can be of benefit when used with consideration.
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Techcrunch have produced a comprehensive review here.
Until next time.