Next month, Facebook will shut down “Nearby Friends” and some other features, i.e. many location-based features, including the feature we just mentioned. This news about the removal of the feature appeared as a notification on the Facebook applications of many users. Facebook hasn’t stated explicitly that many site-based functions will be removed from the platform.
In the meantime, it will also automatically disable location data collected from users, which for instance, can affect gambling companies, such as Latvian online casinos, whose gambling ads overcame two major challenges on Facebook recently: following all Facebook licenses and laws, as well as the laws of the countries where you promote; updating campaigns many times every day, resulting in generic and out-of-date advertisements because of the fast-paced nature of the betting industry.
What’s the Significance of Facebook’s Previous Feature Called “Nearby Friends”?
Facebook introduced the “Nearby Friends” feature in 2014. It was an attempt to create better connections among friends by sharing location data. Only Android and iOS devices have access to this feature. These are two widely used mobile operating systems with GPS tracking capabilities.
Once the user has enabled the “Nearby Friends” feature in their app, the app will share location information with other friends. Users can now view the whereabouts of their friends who have turned on the service. Nevertheless, in today’s privacy-conscious environment, the need for “Nearby Friends” is relatively restricted. Users distrust Facebook when it comes to their personal information, particularly the use of background location data.
How “Nearby Friends” Worked?
Facebook called the feature “voluntary” in its own release upon launching, 8 years ago. It would alert you if another friend who has enabled “Nearby Friends” was in the same general vicinity. It may be the case that you only ever got that warning after you’d already run into the friend in question, so some turned it off soon after seeing the feature. Facebook’s apps needed to track your location even when you weren’t using them in order for “Nearby Friends” and “Weather Alerts” to perform as stated. As a result, Facebook now has a massive amount of geographic data.
The bulk sale of location data by wireless sector businesses has stoked fears about the dangers of massive databases of people’s whereabouts in recent years. The Center for Democracy & Technology in Washington, for example, published a report in December 2021 that detailed how frequently law enforcement and national-security agencies bought this information.
This isn’t simply a problem with smartphones; wireless carriers must also fix your position in order to connect your phone, and then store that data for up to five years. Courts didn’t require police to get a warrant to access previous cell-site location data until a 2018 Supreme Court opinion.
Facebook eventually provided tools to deactivate background location tracking, which you can also disable in Android and iOS system settings. Before making 18-month auto-delete the norm for new accounts, it has yet to adopt an automated data-deletion function like the one Google introduced in 2019. Facebook, on the other hand, has decided to deactivate the entire service.
Other location-based features, including weather alerts, will also become unavailable from June 1, 2022. The phone notification also points out that “Weather Alerts”, “Location History”, and “Background History” will also be unavailable in the coming weeks. Facebook doesn’t state any plans to restore these features, which means their permanent removal. These apps will stop collecting location and background data on May 31, 2022. Users don’t have to disable location permissions or the “Nearby Friends” feature. Facebook will automatically disable them on the termination date.
Facebook is reducing its employment quota for this year due to a loss of revenue. Removing unnecessary features could be a move to improve the user experience. Facebook has become a poster for belittling user data and privacy. Maybe it’s trying to regain lost trust by focusing more on privacy. However, very few would consider expressing confidence in their data towards Mark Zuckerberg, especially if we go back to some previous experiences users had with Facebook (before it was “Meta”).
Users can download data collected by Facebook regarding location sharing features later this year. According to 9to5mac, they will be available until August 1, 2022. Have you enabled the “Nearby Friends” feature on Facebook? Will you ever entrust your data to Mark Zuckerberg? The answers to these questions vary from user to user. But what statistics have shown over the past few years when it comes to trusting social networks, especially Facebook, is that users are less and less trusting of social networks, especially mainstream ones, and are increasingly turning to alternative social networks and tools for the Internet correspondence.