Facebook’s Friendshake Keeps Tabs on Nearby Friends

Facebook announced, yesterday, a new iteration in the growing wave of proximity based technologies – Find Friends Nearby or “Friendshake”. The application is an opt-in feature that allows users to search for potential contacts they have just met or want to make contact with. Instead of broadcasting the location of a user’s current friends (similar to applications like Foursquare or Facebook Places), Friendshake allows people to see any Facebook user within a few miles of them that has also opted into the application. In an interview with TechCrunch, Facebook developer, Ryan Patterson, described the application as being ideal for connecting with “people you have recently met and want to stay in contact with”. But the application leads to other common anxieties that come with allowing strangers to link your location with your contact information. While some of these privacy concerns can and will be addressed by digital locks and software development, we wonder if it is only a matter of time before the market is ready for this next market trend. Proximity based applications have been on the innovation fast track since the turn of the millennium when an application called Dodgeball (created by the same developer behind Foursquare) allowed users to text in their location and to receive notifications about people and places nearby. These sorts of services like Foursquare and even Yelp, which allow users to choose when they share their location, have only gained significant support from the early adopters/tech community. Although GPS was integrated into mobile devices in 2009, the new kind of application that constantly transmits data has taken longer to gain traction due to backlash from privacy advocates. There may be resistance, but technological innovators are spawning more applications by the week. Brands may have shied away from engaging with these services because of low adoption rates. However, once increased privacy awareness allows a critical mass of users to feel comfortable with sharing their whereabouts, marketers will have significant opportunities to capitalize on that data. It’s time to put some serious thought into how your brand might benefit from connecting with customers who have walked within eyesight of your storefront. While many brands aren’t reaching out to “friend” users who attend their events or walk into their store, the Friendshake Facebook application is only the beginning of what can happen with GPS transmitted data. What happens when these capabilities are extended to brand pages too? Location based services may still be a young market, but we’re definitely tracking their every move. Click here to view the article by TechCrunch. Update (6/26): As suspected, there was much skepticism around the privacy invasion of Facebook’s new feature and it looks like they decided to pull the plug. Read this CNN article for more information.

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