Tracking feature can be dangerous

Facebook gradually rolling out 'Nearby Friends' on mobile app

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ORLANDO, Fla. - You download an app. It asks to know your current location. Do you say yes?  You may think a bit more about that decision after this story. Facebook is rolling out a new feature on your smart phone that will track your every move if you allow it.

Apps like Around Me, Yelp and even big name newspapers and big box stores use location services to know where you are, but now that Facebook is rolling out Nearby Friends, GPS monitoring is raising more eyebrows than ever.

If it's not already, the new feature will be part of your mobile Facebook app.

Both you and your friends have to opt in which is meant to offer privacy protection, but for tech expert and social media user Amy Jantzer it still feels a bit too invasive.

"To me there is nothing that convenient that I need to have that information released," said Jantzer, senior vice president of Echo Interaction Group.

Like knowing where you are at all times.

But there are a few pros to geo-location technology especially when you shop or go out to eat.

"Like a local neighborhood app that wants to display specials or coupons.  The Target Cartwheel app does that when you walk into target it knows you're there and it presents you with coupons and discounts," said Jantzer.

But opting in to a feature like Nearby Friends allows Facebook to constantly track you, gather information for advertisers about the places you go, and alert your friends as to where you are within a tenth of a mile.

Criminals are aware of this," said Steve Brenton, special agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement warns you to think twice before opting in to Nearby Friends.

"The more people you allow into your world the more dangerous it could become to yourself. Crimes ranging from sexual batteries to homicides to robberies to identity theft; all crimes have some sort of a nexus to technology," said Brenton.

Keep in mind your smart phone has no firewall and anti-virus software doesn't always work, so enabling location services on any app brings those risks as well.

Jantzer says if you want to stay connected she recommends apps Find My Friends and Foursquare which she says allow you to choose just a few friends to alert and only at certain times of day.

"I don't feel personally that I want to open myself up to the 2000 people I have on my Facebook page," said Jantzer.

How to turn off Nearby Friends:

When you touch Nearby Friends on your Facebook app, simply tap the green button at the top right to turn it off.

Tech blog Mashable recently reported you can delete tracking history all together:
  • Click on the "More" button while using Nearby Friends
  • Scroll down
  • Click on "Activity Log" and then "Filter"
  • Scroll to the very bottom and select "Location History" and delete

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