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Facebook’s new friend-tracking tool

FB's Nearby FriendsSpontaneous get-togethers are now more possible than ever with Facebook’s new Nearby Friends feature. You’d think parents could use it to see if their kids got where they said they were going, but Nearby Friends is only available to Facebook users aged 18+. And then it’s “opt-in” – not on by default – so sharing location has to be a conscious for adults who use it, and they can only share with Facebook friends, not friends of friends nor publicly, reports my ConnectSafely co-director Larry Magid. “Users’ location history is permanently set to ‘only me’,” he adds.

“Facebook has actually designed a lot of obstacles to stand between you and an accidental location disclosure,” the Washington Post reports.

There is actually nothing new about this technology, notes Gigaom in its coverage, and I can remember back even further than its article goes – to when Google acquired Dodgeball, then shut it down in 2009 to introduce its own Latitude, which in turn got shuttered last year. These services haven’t been big hits, but maybe Nearby Friends will work as a missing puzzle piece on Facebook.

[Disclosure: I’m co-director of ConnectSafely.org, a nonprofit organization that receives financial support from a number of Internet and media companies, including Facebook, Google, Trend Micro and Yahoo.]

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