Facebook said to develop location-tracker phone app

Bloomberg

Wed, Feb 06, 2013 - Page 15

Facebook Inc is developing a smartphone application that will track the location of users, two people with knowledge of the matter said, bolstering efforts to benefit from growing use of social media on mobile computers.

The app, scheduled for release by the middle of next month, is designed to help users find nearby friends and would run even when the program is not open on a handset, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans are not 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.

Regulators in the US and Europe have already scrutinized Menlo Park, California-based Facebook amid concerns that it does not do enough to keep data private. Apple Inc and Google Inc have similar tools for continuously keeping tabs on user whereabouts.

Derick Mains, a spokesman for Facebook, declined to comment.

Chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg emphasized the need for new mobile products in a Jan. 30 call with analysts.

“A lot of what we had to do last year was simply to improve our mobile development process,” Zuckerberg said. “The next thing we’re going to do is get really good at building new mobile-first experiences.”

Facebook fell 5.5 percent to US$28.11 on Monday in New York. The stock has gained 59 percent since closing at a record low on Sept. 4.