Up for Debate: Facebook Places

[deleted account] ( 19 moms have responded )

Where are you now? If you’re a Facebook user, that question became a little easier for the 499,999 million other users to answer last week—and kicked off yet another set of concerns among privacy advocates.

Facebook Places is a location-based social feature that, like Foursquare and Gowalla, lets users check in at places and advertise their location to friends. Like the other networks, Places users can check in via iPhone and send their location to Facebook from, say, a restaurant, club, or museum and see other people who have checked in at the same place and have agreed to advertise their location.

The problem, according to privacy advocates, is that you can also “tag” a friend and post his or her location to Facebook— even if your friend doesn’t have an iPhone and hasn’t necessarily opted in to the service. Close on the heels of the launch, the ACLU released a statement expressing its concerns:

“Places allows your friends to tag you when they check in somewhere, and Facebook makes it very easy to say ‘yes’ to allowing your friends to check in for you,” read the statement, released late Wednesday night. “But when it comes to opting out of that feature, you are only given a ‘not now’ option. ‘No’ isn’t one of the easy options.”

The organization also warned that Facebook had already opened up location data to third party sites: “This means that your friends’ apps may be able to access information about your most recent check-in by default as soon as you start using Places.” It also provided a Places resources page for managing your privacy settings.

And if Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg emphasized in a press conference for the launch that “The main thing we are doing is allowing our users to share where they are in a really nice and social way,” some are more focused on the potential that location-based social networks have for doing harm.

In this article for the U.K. newspaper the Guardian, for instance, writer Leo Hickman used Foursquare to “cyberstalk” a public relations executive and expose the dangers of opening yourself up to others who would be doing the same thing for more nefarious purposes. Having located her on Foursquare and cross-referenced her on Google and Twitter, Hickman says, “Louise is about to meet her new digital stalker.”

While the new Facebook feature, according to this New York Times article, is anticipated to help the company compete with Google, other location-based services such as Foursquare, Gowalla, and Yelp so far see Places as yet another distribution channel.

What do you think of Facebook’s new Places feature and other location-based social networks? Are they fun or unnerving? And is it responsible to tag someone’s location without their consent?

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Stifler's - posted on 01/09/2011

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I think you actually have to update where you are it doesn't just do it itself.

Amber - posted on 01/07/2011

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I turned it off the day that it became available. Nobody needs to know where I am, unless I want them too. I also don't have my address or phone numbers listed on my facebook page.
I only add people who I know, but just because I'm friends with you and grab lunch with you, doesn't mean I want you to know where my home is. I meet you OUT for lunch for a reason :)

I see people "checking in" on facebook all the time. And all I can think is that I hope they haven't ticked anybody off recently. Like when they are out to dinner, now people know where your car is...or that your house is empty. Brilliant, simply brilliant.

Candi - posted on 01/07/2011

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same here shannen. I had a cousin as a friend of mine and his wife signed on under his name and sent a friend request to ALL of my friends. The bad thing is, some of them were stupid enough to accept them!! and if the request was ignored, they'd send another request. I reported them and dropped him from my list. He doesn't know any of my friends!! Most of my friends are people I met through the military. He and his wife are both idiots!!

[deleted account]

I have like 50 friends woo hoo for me..... I'm not a FB slut with hundreds and hundreds of friends so i doubt it will bother me but i turned it all of anyway.

Mother - posted on 01/06/2011

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There is just some times and places, no one should know where you are........;p

Candi - posted on 01/05/2011

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I think its rediculous. I only accept people I personally know on facebook, so I'm not worried about them knowing my every move and my profile is private (as far as I know).It seems like advertising your where abouts is asking someone to rob your house b/c nobody is home!! I never advertise when I am not home. Its stupid. As far as having the app on my phone, my phone serves one purpose-phone calls! I don't sit in traffic and type that I am stuck in traffic, I don't check email on my phone, I don't sit at a concert letting everyone know I am at a concert. No I don't twitter. We are a military family and the only reason I got Facebook in the first place was to stay in touch with my husband when he was deployed and now to keep up with family members.

Gina - posted on 01/04/2011

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Thanks so much Meghan, I didn't even know about this. There's no way I will post where I am,and I sure as hell don't want anyone else to.

Stifler's - posted on 01/03/2011

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I honestly think it's just another way for people to fame whore. "Look at me I'm out and about doing things! I'm so c00l!". I couldn't be bothered with it.

[deleted account]

It doesn't automatically post where you are. You have to tell it to. I don't use it because it's weird. I guess I could see the point: you say i'm a "the local bar." Your friend sees that and decided to go to "the local bar" and meet you. However, it creeps me out. I have friends that use it and they will say that they're at home. If you click on it it pulls up google maps and you can see where "home" is located. That's creepy. I don't know why people use it. Public places are a little different, but as others have pointed out, if you have a stalker they will find you there.

Nikki - posted on 01/02/2011

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I deactivated mine when I watched an episode of Criminal Minds! It freaked me out, I hadn't thought about the implications until then. I think it's too much information, what's the point; I don't need to know that your at the gym or eating sushi!

[deleted account]

Thanks for bringing this up Meghan. I turned mine off the day it was launched, but I make a point of keeping up on this stuff since I do have a cyber stalker...

[deleted account]

I didn't even know I had this on my FB, I've now turned it off. I think it is going to cause problems for the younger members of FB because they are the most likely to advertise where they are, and as the younger FB users are the ones more likely to add anyone as a 'friend' it opens them up to weirdos who aren't who they say they are knowing where they are. IMO it has the potential to be very dangerous!

Jenny - posted on 01/02/2011

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I don't like it. I've deactivated it on my profile. If you need to know where I am I'll let you know.

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