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: think 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 doesn’t allow you to choose public as a sharing option.)

Enable or Disable Nearby Friends on an Android Device

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

  2. Tap 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.

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

  3. Tap Share My Location.

  4. Tap the slider next to Share My Location to turn on the feature. (Green means the feature is activated.)

  5. Tap From to select from 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. Next, 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.)

  9. Tap the three vertical dots on the top right of the screen, which will take you to Settings.

  10. Tap the slider to turn on Nearby Friends.

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.

Turn Off Nearby Settings on an iOS Device

  1. Open the Facebook app on your iOS device.

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

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

  4. Tap the three vertical dots on the top right of the screen, which will take you to Settings.

  5. Tap the slider to turn off Nearby Friends.

Exact Location Sharing

To share your exact location with a friend so you can meet somewhere, tap the compass icon next to the friend's name on the Nearby Friends list. Once you tap this icon, set how long this precise location sharing should last. This value ranges from two hours to “until you choose to stop.”