Facebook is ending its Nearby Friends feature and halting other location-tracking data collection. Location history, background location and Weather Alerts will be discontinued globally due to “low usage.” The change reflects consumers’ increased caution over personal data and movement tracking. The Meta Platforms unit says as of May 31 the features will stop collecting information, and by August 1 previously collected location history and background location data will be deleted. Users can log in to Facebook before August 1 to view or download their data.
“While we’re deprecating some location-based features on Facebook due to low usage, people can still use Location Services to manage how their location information is collected and used,” a spokesperson for the company said in a statement to The Verge.
Facebook will still collect and use its users’ location information “for other experiences across its platform as described by its Data Policy,” including location data “to personalize ads, for posts with check-ins, Facebook Events and more,” writes TechCrunch.
While consumers have become more savvy about sharing location information through social networking, that doesn’t mean they unilaterally refuse to do so, explains TechCrunch, which says Snapchat won that market: “The app’s Snap Map feature lets users see their friends’ locations, as well as view Snaps users submit to the Map from all over the world.”
“Apple and Google also both offer tools to find friends and family, as do dedicated family tracking services like Life360 and others provided by mobile operators,” TechCrunch writes.
Facebook debuted Nearby Friends at a time when location-based apps were on the rise and companies were vying to get in on the action. Facebook entered the market by acquiring Glancee in 2012, according to TechCrunch, which says the Glancee team “went on to build out the Nearby Friends feature which launched in 2014.”
Facebook’s location data deprecation “follows a period of increased regulation over user data privacy,” TechCrunch points out, noting that “if Nearby Friends was an actively used service by hundreds of millions of users, the company would likely try to maintain it. Facebook has also been shuttering other services that weren’t gaining enough traction including, recently, its audio products.”
TikTok Rolls Out New ‘Friends’ Tab to More Users, Replacing the Current ‘Discover’ Tab, TechCrunch, 5/9/22