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Facebook to launch location-tracking app

Facebook is prepping a new app that would allow users (and advertisers) to keep tabs on their friends' locations, according to a report from Bloomberg.

Citing two unnamed sources, Bloomberg said the popular social network will release the app in mid-March. It would allow for location tracking even when app is not open.

A Facebook spokeswoman declined to comment when approached, but according to Bloomberg, the service would help sell ads based on users' whereabouts and daily habits. Say you head to the gym every day after work, then stop for a salad on your way home – the new app could help push more health-conscious advertisements your way, instead of marketing Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks.

Users already voluntarily check in at various locations through the site's Foursquare-like feature, clueing Facebook in on favourite hotspots. Facebook also records GPS coordinates for those who post status updates or photos from their phone. But the app in question would continue tracking in the background even when it's closed, possibly raising privacy questions, Bloomberg said.

According to Facebook's data-use policy, the company may use location information to "tell you and your friends about people or events nearby, or offer deals to you that you might be interested in." It may also gather data about users to serve relevant ads.

"When we get your GPS location, we put it together with other location information we have about you (like your current city)," the policy said. "But we only keep it until it is no longer useful to provide you services, like keeping your last GPS coordinates to send you relevant notifications."

Facebook tested a similar feature, called "Find Friends Nearby," in June, but quickly disabled it after startup Friendthem accused Facebook of infringing on its related service.

The social network updated it privacy settings in December, adding shortcuts, an easily accessible Activity Log, and an update request and removal tool. But even Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg's own kin fell victim to the new policies: Randi Zuckerberg, older sister of Mark, posted onto her private timeline a photo that went viral when it was tweeted by a friend of a friend.