Facebook to begin rolling out "Nearby Friends" feature

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The new addition to Facebook's mobile app lets your friends know if you are in a nearby location.

The new feature works on an opt-in process whereby the user can set the Facebook application to let the user's friends know when you are close-by. Friends can see exactly how far away you are and can track your live location for a set amount of time. 

Nearby Friends looks certain to stir up some concerns over the users privacy but its aim is to get people coming together and communicating in the real world, rather than over their personal computer devices.

It is only available for Facebookers over the age 18 and works by users opting in under the "More" section of the Facebook app on Android or iOS. You'll then be able to see others on your friends list who have opted in, and they will be shown from closest to furthest away in increments of a mile. 

You can then send and share your location with friends who have the feature on, and also send 40 character messages about meeting up or what you're up to. Others who share their exact location with you will show up on a map view.

Facebook will utilise the smartphone's GPS chip to find the users exact location, however if the user isn't moving anywhere the app will use the accelerometer to minimise the drain on the phone's battery.

The social networking company claim they are respecting people's privacy with this new feature as it can be switched on and off at any time. The user can set the people who they want to see their location, and friends must be sharing their own location for them to see your own.

It will start rolling out on iOS and Android in the United States from today. A world-wide release is unknown at this stage, but Facebook often test-drive their new applications and features in the US first, for example Facebook Paper, before releasing them to everyone at some point thereafter.