Could this new 'location sharing' feature challenge online friendship?
Facebook, Associated Press
Facebook announced earlier this month that it is offering a new feature called Nearby Friends that tracks friends "nearby or on the go" for last-minute plans and real-world meet-ups.
The Verge reported that other apps, like Foursquare's Swarm app, are following suit and allowing users to know where their friends are within a certain radius at any given time.
The technology behind it is called ambient proximity, and TechCrunch is calling it "the next phase of location sharing."
The basic distinction between ambient proximity and current location tracking in most apps is that ambient proximity allows users to know not only where their friends are, but how close they are.
Google tried its own version of Nearby Friends called Google Latitude, which the tech giant shut down in July of last year. Latitude developer Joe LePenna said in a Google+ discussion last year that while Latitude was going offline, location tracking was something Google is investigating further. Currently. Google+ has location sharing options similar to basic Facebook settings.
What does this mean for users, especially on Facebook and Foursquare? As SimpliSafe.com put it, "The white lie is dead." Meaning that "turning on Nearby Friends ensures that you will have to engage in the very uncomfortable moment of saying 'I just really didn't want to.'"
That could spell some trouble, as a recent poll from Reader's Digest states that some 96 percent of respondents admitted to lying at work or school.
And TechCrunch also pointed out, the possibility for tact to go out the window, when "dropping in can lead to awkward situations. You’re best off contacting them first to make sure," especially since "knowing precisely where they are feels a bit like spying."
The best way to avoid that uncomfortable exchange and risk a friendship? Read Facebook's instructions (via Mashable) carefully and opt to turn Nearby Friends off. Otherwise, honesty and privacy might be the best policies.