Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Working from home: The future of business is remote

Facebook launches couples messaging app to help them cope with social distancing

The digital scrapbook is intended to keep us connected and communicating.

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As COVID-19 keeps many of us from gathering due to social distancing and lockdowns, Facebook has quietly introduced a new application for couples forced apart. 

In order to try and limit the spread of coronavirus and reduce the pressure on medical systems as much as possible, many cities have implemented social distancing measures and, in some cases, strict lockdowns. This impacts members of the general public and healthcare professionals who may need to stay away from families and friends in order to shield them from an increased risk of exposure. 

This new form of 'normal' life has resulted in our increased reliance on the Internet not only to shift work from the office to home but also to maintain our social connections. 

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It may be particularly difficult for couples unable to see each other, and so Facebook has released a new app, called Tuned, which allows them to create a form of digital scrapbook to stay connected. 

Available on iPhone and iPad, the free mobile application has been built by the Facebook New Product Experimental Team (NPE) team, a developer name used by the social media giant to "give people entirely new experiences for building community."

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The new NPE offering, released when users may be far more interested in connectivity apps than during other times, is described as a "private space" for you and your significant other to "be yourselves."

"With Tuned, you can be as mushy, quirky, and silly as you are together in person, even when you're apart," the app's description reads. 

The mobile app can be used to exchange messages, music, photos, and other content to build a digital scrapbook. You can also set your mood, connect Spotify accounts, send notes, cards, and voice memos, and use standard Facebook stickers and reactions. 

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When it comes to data usage, Facebook's NPE developer page says that all apps are bound by the firm's standard terms of use policies. The app does not appear to have end-to-end encryption and it seems as if content shared can be used for targeted advertising purposes in the same way as the standard Facebook platform. 

"We decided to create this separate developer name to help set the appropriate expectations with people that, unlike Facebook's family of apps, NPE Team apps will change very rapidly and will be shut down if we learn that they're not useful to people," Facebook says. 

ZDNet has reached out to Facebook with additional queries and will update when we hear back. 

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