November 13, 2012
Facebook Finds Friends Nearby
Facebook users may or may not have have noticed that the Facebook Find Friends Nearby app is no longer on the social media giant’s list of mobile apps. According to PCWorld magazine, “Find Friends Nearby, originally called Friendshake, was available on Facebook’s mobile Website at fb.com/ffn, and in Facebook’s mobile apps for iOS and Android. When multiple people launch this feature in close proximity, they’ll see each other’s names in a list, even if they’re not friends on Facebook. For each list entry, there’s a button to quickly add that person as a friend.” The app was never officially released and there was no major announcement about the service. Several new reports cited concerns about the privacy implication of such apps. The LA Times called the app “kind of creepy, but also potentially useful. Users of the Facebook Find Friends Nearby program would have their Facebook profile pic show up on nearby users’ devices regardless whether or not they were “friends” on Facebook. Opening the tool from your phone’s browser or Facebook app would show other users on the page within your proximity using your phones’ GPS. For a company often embroiled in controversy regarding the protection of users’ private data, this seemed like an odd move indeed. Facebook users quickly complained that the app could easily be used inappropriately. While it is one thing to talk to your friends online, it may not be the best idea to let everyone know where you physically are at all times. Apparently the minds at Facebook figured this out too and quietly pulled the app from the mobile site just days after it was made available.
ABC News posted this statement from Facebook regarding their removal of the Facebook Find Friends Nearby app.
“This wasn’t a formal release – this was something that a few engineers were testing. With all tests, some get released as full products, others don’t. Nothing more to say on this for now – we’ll communicate to everyone when there is something to say.”
While it is true that the app has been pulled, apps similar to the Facebook Find Friends Nearby may be making an appearance later.
Facebook employee and software developer Ryan Patterson posted a comment on an article on techcrunch.com about the app. He defended his app stating.
“I built Find Friends Nearby with another engineer for a hackathon project. While it was originally called ‘Friendshake’, we settled on ‘Find Friends Nearby’ for launch (the URL was a little bit of a homage to the previous iteration). For me, the ideal use case for this product is the one where when you’re out with a group of people whom you’ve recently met and want to stay in contact with. Facebook search might be effective, or sharing your vanity addresses or business cards, but this tool provides a really easy way to exchange contact information with multiple people with minimal friction.”
Immediately following the release and subsequent pull of the Facebook mobile app, a New York based app developer launched accusations that had ripped off his idea for the app titled Friendthem.com. If Facebook can settle this claim and figure out how to protect their users’ privacy better, we may see another release of a Find Friends Nearby app soon.
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