Facebook’s Places will share your location, but could violate your privacy

Aug 20, 2010
Tech

Facebook launched a native check-in service called Places, but while you’ve probably heard some buzz, you might not have the feature yet. A Places icon appeared in my Facebook for iPhone app early on Thursday, but like many users, I was informed that the service was not yet available in my area. It wasn’t until […]

Facebook launched a native check-in service called Places, but while you’ve probably heard some buzz, you might not have the feature yet. A Places icon appeared in my Facebook for iPhone app early on Thursday, but like many users, I was informed that the service was not yet available in my area. It wasn’t until Thursday evening—and another update—that Places’ functionality showed itself on my iPhone.

When you view the Places icon, you’ll, in theory, see recent check-ins by you and your friends (the service was so new there were no other check-ins to be seen). To share your current location, you hit the check-in button and then select your site from a list of nearby places, but I’m not sure where Facebook is sourcing this information. Although the app was able to detect places near my apartment such as my gym, the Salvation Army, a delicious greasy spoon and a corner bodega, it completely missed the giant grocery store across the street. Searching for Jewel only brought up two Chicago locations, one a few miles away and one equally far away that was torn down many months ago.

Once you’ve chosen somewhere to check-in you can leave a note about what you’re doing and tag anyone who is with you. It’s one thing to choose to share your own location, but your friends might not like you sharing theirs, so I would exercise this option with caution. For those who want to lock down their privacy, you can opt to disable tagging by others through your Facebook privacy panel on the regular website. After agreeing to Places’ terms and conditions your location will post to your wall for all to see (unless you’ve adjusted this privacy level, too).

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Much like Foursquare, you’ll also be able to see who else is at the location at the same time, as well as access their profile information. I’m guessing how much information you’re allowed to see is related to privacy settings, but nonetheless, I could see quite a bit about the stranger who was at Foodtown at the same time of my imaginary visit. As Places rolls out nationally and your friends decide whether to use the service, it’s a good time for users to reevaluate Facebook privacy for safety’s sake.

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