Instant Guide

Why Facebook is developing a location-tracking app

Hint: It involves ads

Facebook is developing a new location-tracking app that will silently follow where your phone (and thus you) are at all times, reports Bloomberg. The social network already records GPS coordinates whenever a user posts new status updates or photos, but this new application would apparently hum along in the background at all times, a lot like Apple's Find My Friends app or Google Latitude.

Details of this initiative remain sketchy, and Facebook declined to comment on Bloomberg's report. Still, in the past two years, Facebook has acquired Glancee and Gowalla, two location-based startups for mobile products. "A lot of what we had to do last year was simply to improve our mobile development process," said Mark Zuckerberg during an earnings call on Jan. 30. "The next thing we're going to do is get really good at building new mobile-first experiences."

Such a feature would, at least in theory, allow users to find nearby friends while simultaneously allowing Facebook to sell geo-targeted ads based on a user's habits. For example: If you swing by Target once a week, the social network could learn when and how often you go, and beam advertisements straight to your phone. 

Of course, users will have to opt into the service, and many will undoubtedly be skeptical of an app that keeps close tabs on their location. Another problem: 24/7 tracking apps are a huge drain on a phone's battery — it's hard to see why users would keep it toggled on when their phone is already in the red by 5 p.m. every night.

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