At this point, sweaty EDM bro Mark Zuckerberg must be trolling us. Because even though Facebook received a million complaints for its iffy relationship with the concept of "privacy" over the last few years, the company is now doubling down and actually creating a smartphone application that will track the location of users.
The app, scheduled for release by mid-March, is designed to help users find nearby friends and would run even when the program isn’t open on a handset, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans aren’t public.
Facebook is adding features to help it profit from the surging portion of its more than 1 billion users who access the service via handheld devices. The tracking app could help Facebook sell ads based on users’ whereabouts and daily habits. It may also raise the hackles of consumers and privacy advocates concerned about the company’s handling of personal information.
The idea is not exactly new. "Find My Friends" has been in production by Apple since 2011, and even though it's not wildly popular—thanks to its overriding creepiness—the technology is coveted in Silicon Valley. We probably should have seen something big coming from Facebook's mobile division, too. On an earnings call in January, Zuck emphasized that the social network couldn't be thought of as just a webpage anymore. "It's a momentous shift—the company’s most avid users now view it primarily as a tool for their iPhones and Android phones. 'Today there is no argument: Facebook is a mobile company,' Mark Zuckerberg said." So they had to figure out a way to exploit those potential ad sales.
But you should be wary of this. If the program runs even when it isn't open on the handset, you're, first of all, going to have a phone that drains battery faster than Zuck's energy level after a DJ set. That's just what those apps do. Then, there's the (more important) fact that NO ONE will remember to turn this off when they probably should turn it off. This could create relatively innocent problems: You tell a friend you're sick on a Friday and can't go out with him, then show up on Location Tracker at a different bar at 2 a.m. And it can create not-so-innocent problems: The night out with the guys ends up in disgrace at Sapphire's, and you're busted when you try to deny it to your girlfriend. Strippers... They'll always get ya.
Bottom line: The friend tracker could end up being the most invasive tool the network has ever created.
And I say, Screw this. I'm pulling an Alexander Supertramp and going off the grid. This all feels like a self-imposed "1984," and I want nothing of it. Who's with me?