Facebook’s Nearby Friends Tool Is Still Around—and Can Still Track You
Here's how to get your privacy back.
And you thought those weirdly accurate advertisements on Facebook were creepy. (By the way, here’s how to turn those ads off.) When it comes to online privacy, there’s actually something Facebook users should be much, much more worried about.
Few people know that in 2014, Facebook implemented a feature called “Nearby Friends,” which shows users where their nearby Facebook friends are located. It can also display the location of friends who are traveling, Money reports.
“What I’ve seen is that a lot of people don’t know that it’s on,” says Scott Robertson, a marketing and social media consultant based in Rancho Santa Margarita, California.
What’s more, it’s draining your phone’s battery—at a rate of about 0.3 to 0.4 percent per hour, according to Facebook.
Since the launch, Facebook has been working on refining Nearby Friends. In 2018, the company confirmed that it was testing a redesign of the tool, Gizmodo reported. The new version would replace the list view of the neighborhoods user’s friends were in with a map that grouped friends by city.
You might never have given the app permission to use your location in the first place; in that case, the feature may already be disabled. But if it’s on, the “Nearby Friends” tab will show a screen detailing your nearby friends, traveling friends, and even other locations such as where you have previously lived or traveled.
If you’d rather not advertise your location to your entire Facebook friends list, here’s what to do. (These are the signs you’re sharing too much on Facebook, anyway.) Find the “Explore” tab under the menu button on your phone’s Facebook app and select “Nearby Friends.” To open the feature’s settings, select the gear button in the top right-hand corner of the screen, and then tap the “Nearby Friends” sliding icon at the top. Doing so should disable the feature.
However, there might be certain people among your family or friends who would like to know your location for safety purposes. You can tailor the list of who can see your location by turning on your location and selecting the “Friends” option right underneath. You can also select a certain group, or “location” to see where you are, says digital marketing strategist Kristin Dyak.
Don’t rest easy just yet, though. Here are 7 more ways to stay safe when using Facebook.