Facebook is preparing to launch a smartphone application which tracks users’ movements even when not in use, according to sources, sparking further privacy concerns.
The app, which Bloomberg reports is to be launched in March, is intended to allow users to locate friends nearby.
It will essentially be an automated version of the existing “Find Friends” mobile app, which allows users to “check in” at locations, and will track movements even when not open on a user’s smartphone.
From Facebook’s point of view, the new app will improve advertising prospects, allowing the company to place more targeted adverts based on users’ locations and habitual movements.
The revelation has already triggered a wave of privacy-related dialogue, with many harbouring concerns about how Facebook will handle individuals’ private data – Facebook’s data-use policy already providing for the retention of data collected, under the vaguely defined timeframe of “until it is no longer useful to provide you services”.
The move comes following Mark Zuckerberg’s statement in January that the company is focusing on improving its mobile offering.
“The next thing we’re going to do is get really good at building new mobile-first experiences,” he said.
The friend tracking application may be a risky step, however, as Apple’s Find My Friends and Google’s Latitude apps have not seen particularly strong uptake due to prevalent privacy worries.