Facebook Challenges Privacy Measures with Places

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-08-19 Print this article Print


Gowalla and Foursquare are using Facebook's new Places API to let users check in and publish the data to their Facebook feed. Badges and pins from both services will transfer to Places.

This isn't much different from the data sharing the occurs between Facebook and Twitter; tweets posted to Twitter can be automatically launched to Facebook.

Other things users should know about Places is that there is no hardcore opt-out, though there are some privacy controls.

In the "People Here Now" section, users can see others who are checked in at the same place, but this section is visible for a limited amount of time and only to people who are checked in there.

Those who prefer not to appear in this section can uncheck the "Include me in 'People Here Now' after I check in" privacy control. When users decide to check in to a location, they can tag friends who are with them as long as their settings are set to allow it.

Unless a user has explicitly set his or her master privacy control to "Everyone," only friends can see when a user visits or is tagged at a place. Facebook Places Product Manager Michael Sharon noted in a blog post:

"When a friend tags you through Places, you will receive a notification on Facebook and on your mobile device. The first time this happens, you'll be given the choice to allow your friends to check you in to places.

"When your friends check you in, it is as if you have checked in at that place yourself. You also will appear checked-in to your friends. If you do not allow friends to check you in, then when they tag you at a place, your name will appear in the same way it appears in a tagged status update. You will not appear checked-in at that place."

Users can turn off the ability for friends to check them in at Places by going to their Privacy Settings and turning off the setting to "Let Friends Check Me In."

Users who don't want to share their check-ins with their friends' third-party applications can uncheck the new box in Privacy Settings under "Applications and Websites."

Within hours of the announcement, Facebook Places has already drawn privacy concerns from the Northern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which decried the lack of an explicit opt-out control for Places.


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