Facebook Places Largely Meets EFFs Approval

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-08-20 Print this article Print


Opsahl also expressed concerns that Facebook Places could be used by police, FBI and other law enforcement agencies to track users to investigate criminal activity.

This is an issue the EFF broached with Google and Loopt, asking that those services require a wiretap order before tracking a Places user's location for law enforcement.

Facebook scored yet another point with the EFF by asserting that it will require a "search warrant for prior generated content or a wiretap to capture forward generated content."

Opsahl concluded:

"Places is Facebook's most significant product launch since the controversial introduction of Connections and Instant Personalization. We had a number of constructive conversations with Facebook leading up to this launch, and appreciated the opportunity to provide feedback.

"Not everything resulted in changes, but overall it was a positive process. While the product is not perfect and could use some important changes, as noted above, the privacy settings and defaults represent a substantial improvement over those earlier launches."

The EFF also vowed to closely watch the service's implementation and effects on locational privacy.

The group knows most people who aren't tech-savvy won't necessarily grok the significance of the privacy and security risks associated with letting GPS technology in smartphones and applications track people.

This is what services such as Facebook Places, Google Latitude, Loopt, Foursquare, Gowalla, Brightkite and others do.

Not every faction shares the EFF's view that Facebook Places provides a marked privacy improvement over previous Facebook services.

The American Civil Liberties Union in Northern California lashed out at Facebook for its lack of granular privacy controls.

Facebook doesn't go quietly when it believes it's right. Facebook spokesperson Barry Schnitt refuted the ACLU's claims, arguing that it misunderstood the way the privacy controls work in Places.

"No location information is associated with a person unless he or she explicitly chooses to become part of location sharing. No one can be checked in to a location without their explicit permission."

He added: "Many third parties have applauded our controls, indicating that people have more protections using Facebook Places than other widely used location services available today."

Facebook then finds itself in rare agreement with the EFF.


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