The Electronic Frontier Foundation said privacy controls in Facebook Places show a "substantial improvement" over those used in earlier products such as Facebook Connections and Instant Personalization.
Despite complaints from some consumer advocates about the privacy measures
in Facebook Places, the Electronic Frontier Foundation called privacy controls
for the location-based service a "substantial improvement" over those
of earlier products.
That praise from the EFF comes with the caveat that Facebook Places settings
are only good if users understand them and judiciously use them.
its Places location-based service Aug. 18. The
service lets users "check in" to a location via their smartphone to
share their locations with Facebook friends.
Places will tell those users if their friends are nearby in case the parties
want to meet up. Users may also tag friends who are with them. Facebook Places
rivals check-in services from Foursquare and Gowalla. TechCrunch runs down the
The EFF is highly sensitive to location-based Web services, having tussled
with Google over its Latitude friend-finding service to make sure that it
protects user privacy.
So the EFF naturally took an interest when the world's leading social
network, which boasts 500 million users, announced its location-based service.
Noting that a stream of location information can provide a detailed picture
of users' lives, EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl credited
Facebook Places for letting only Facebook friends see
when users are tagged in a location.
That is, the default privacy setting for the service is "only friends"
instead of "everyone," which the EFF recommends against. Facebook
scored a major point with the EFF there.
Moreover, when a friend tries to check in another friend who has not opted
into Places, he will receive an alert that lets the friend "allow check-ins,"
or select "not now" to discard that specific check-in.
Users may permanently disallow check-ins by disabling "Friends can
check me in to Places" on the customize privacy settings page. Another
point scored, in Opsahl's book.
Users may also opt out of the Here Now broadcast feature by unchecking the
"Include me in 'People Here Now' after I check in" privacy control.
However, Opsahl laments that Facebook does not let users limit Here Now
visibility to groups of friends. This is a granular control that could be added