Facebook Is Killing Off ‘Nearby Friends’ and Other Location-Based Features

The company also says it’s killing off weather alerts, location history, and background location.
Facebook Nearby Friends and Privacy Changes Credit: klevo / Shutterstock
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While Meta is adding some nice enhancements on the WhatsApp side of its business, the company is sunsetting a few features from its Facebook app.

Yesterday, many Facebook users began receiving notifications informing them that the social media network is about to pull the plug on all of its features that depend on collecting location data.

The most user-facing of these features is “Nearby Friends,” which would let you know when your friends were nearby — provided they were sharing their location, of course.

However, that’s not all. Facebook says it’s also killing off weather alerts, location history, and background location, all of which will be switched off at the end of the month.

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Because you’ve previously used Nearby Friends, Weather alerts, Location History or Background Location, we’re letting you know that these products and features will no longer be available after May 31, 2022. Information you shared that was used for these experiences, including Location History and Background Location, will stop being collected after May 31, 2022, even if you have previously enabled them. Facebook will otherwise continue collecting location information for other experiences as described in our Data Policy.

It’s unclear how many folks used these features, so this may be a case of Meta cleaning house by purging some unnecessary cruft from its systems.

For instance, Nearby Friends was only helpful if you and your friends trusted Facebook enough to share your locations voluntarily. In my own experience, it was more popular a few years ago, when we were all a lot more naive about the privacy implications of such things. However, most folks are much more nervous about such things these days — and with good reason.

Similarly, there are dozens of weather apps on the App Store and Google Play Store that are far superior to Facebook’s Weather alerts, which is a feature that many people didn’t even know Facebook offered.

Will Facebook Still Know My Location?

Unfortunately, if you’re hoping that this means Facebook will stop tracking your location entirely, you’re asking too much. Facebook says it will still collect location information “for other experiences” — whatever those are.

Facebook’s Data Policy does provide a bit of insight into this. While it’s probably not a comprehensive list, there are a few scenarios where Facebook will still use your location:

  1. Photos you upload that contain location data will still be read by Facebook, so you may want to turn that off before sharing.
  2. Locations you — or your friends — tag you at are naturally still recorded by Facebook.
  3. Data from device settings you turn on are considered fair game by Facebook to collect. If you don’t want Facebook to get access to this information, disable it under your iPhone’s Privacy Settings.

As for how Facebook uses this location data, it says that it’s used to help you find events nearby, show local ads and news stories, let friends check in as “safe” during crisis events, monitor your account for suspicious logins, and of course to deliver targeted advertising.

Disabling location services for Facebook isn’t enough; there are still ways the social network can track you, including monitoring your IP address, locations you “check-in” at, and photos you upload to Facebook (as noted above).

However, it looks like Facebook may start collecting less information. According to a recent email notification, your Location History will stop being collected after May 31, 2022, and all Location History information will be automatically deleted on August 1, 2022. If you want to check out that information or download a copy, you’ll have to do it before that date.

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