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Taking a cue from social networking services like Foursquare and Apple's own Find My Friends, Facebook has started releasing a new service for its iOS app that will announce when your friends are in the general area. It's called Nearby Friends, it's optional, and it's meant to facilitate impromptu group activities and social events.
In Facebook's words, "If you turn on Nearby Friends, you’ll occasionally be notified when friends are nearby, so you can get in touch with them and meet up. For example, when you’re headed to the movies, Nearby Friends will let you know if friends are nearby so you can see the movie together or meet up afterward."
Facebook gets a lot of attention for its privacy policies, and so it's perhaps not surprising that the announcement takes special care to emphasize that Nearby Friends is entirely an opt-in feature. In other words, you'll need to turn the feature on for it to work, so you won't need to worry about it pinging your location to members of your friends list unless you want it to.
As a bonus, you can apparently choose which friends will receive the notifications, which comes in handy if there's only one or two people who are welcome to look you up at any time. The feature will slowly be extended to users of both the iOS and Android apps in the US "over the coming weeks." There's currently no indication as to when or if international users will have access to the feature.
Follow this article's writer, Leif Johnson, on Twitter.