Facebook's Nearby Friends: What You Need to Know

How this location-based feature works and how to enable or disable it

Symbolic social connections concept illustrating Facebook Nearby Friends feature
iLexx / Getty Images

Facebook seems to have borrowed the “location, location, location” mantra from the real estate industry. The company constantly rolls out features that take advantage of location-awareness technology. Location tagging in status updates, location-based advertising, and geotagged pictures may delight users, but they also create privacy concerns.

Facebook's Nearby Friends is another location-based feature. It finds and displays the location of friends who are close by in case you want to meet up. Facebook rolled out this feature with little fanfare and didn’t clearly explain its privacy implications. Users should be aware that Nearby Friends comes with potential security concerns.

Facebook's Nearby Friends feature is only available on iOS and Android devices.

The Privacy Implications of Nearby Friends

When you turn on Nearby Friends, Facebook warns that you are also turning on location history. By turning on location history, you essentially create a digital record of your travels.

Facebook says users can delete items from their location history, or even delete an entire history. Remember to do this periodically if you're uncomfortable with this aspect of Nearby Friends.

Nearby Friends also has a host of implications for relationships: cheating spouses, overbearing parents, and people who say they’re in one place but whose location information tells a different story. Keep this in mind when using the feature.

If you enable Nearby Friends, even though you can restrict your precise location, your general location will be available to those you've chosen to share it with. It does not allow you to choose public as a sharing option.

Enable or Disable Nearby Friends on an Android Device

Here's how to turn off the Nearby Friends feature on an Android device.

  1. Select the three-horizontal-line menu icon on the Facebook app screen.

  2. Choose Nearby Friends.

  3. Tap the slider to turn Nearby Friends on or off.

Enable Nearby Friends on an iOS Device

To turn on Nearby Friends on an iOS device, you must first turn on location sharing.

  1. Tap Settings > Privacy > Location Services on your iOS device.

    iOS settings privacy location services
  2. Use the slider at the top of the screen to turn location services on.

  3. Select Share My Location.

  4. Tap the slider next to Share My Location to turn the feature On (green).

  5. Select My Location to choose which of your iOS devices you want to share your location. (Typically, this is your iPhone, but it could be your iPad, for example.)

  6. Open the Facebook app on your iOS device.

  7. Tap the three-horizontal-line menu icon on the bottom right of the Facebook app.

  8. Tap Nearby Friends. (You may first need to tap See More.)

    Facebook Nearby Friends
  9. Select Get Started, then select which audience you'd like to share your location with. You can choose specific Friends or whole groups.

    If you haven't yet turned on location sharing, the screen will prompt you to visit Location Settings and set the Location Access to Always.

  10. Select Next to begin sharing your location. You can also see other friends who are currently sharing their location.

Turn Off Nearby Settings on an iOS Device

Follow these steps to stop sharing your location.

  1. Follow the above steps to navigate to the Nearby Friends feature.

  2. Select the gear icon next to your profile name.

  3. Select Turn off Nearby Friends.

    Facebook Nearby Friends off
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