Facebook has launched its location-based service called Facebook Places. Facebook Places is a phone-based service that enable Facebook users share their location with friends. Places service is slowly being rolled out to users in the US. Users in other countries may have to wait awhile before Facebook Places is activated for their account.
Benefits of Facebook Places
Facebook Places will enable users to connect with each other at an entirely new level. Users can now see where their friends are as well as find friends around their location. Once a user selects the “check-in” button, their location will be visible to friends. This feature enables users to discover when they are in the same place with their friends. Users can write comments/reviews about their location like restaurant, enabling users share their favourite spots with friends on Facebook. Your friends can check you in to any location whether you are actually there or not, but you will receive a notification from Facebook each time this happens. Facebook also allows you to prevent friends from checking you in to locations.
Most Options on Facebook places are active by default. So whatever functionality you do not want, you have to opt-out yourself. You can either opt-out from Facebook Places completely or optimise the privacy settings to suite your privacy needs. Facebook Places is available for the iPhone as well as Smartphones with support for geolocation and HTML 5. Facebook Places is currently available to Facebook users in the US.
The launch of Facebook Places as raised more privacy concern about Facebook services. One flaw pointed out about Facebook Places is the fact that users are opted-in as a default. Hence, Facebook users who are not comfortable with sharing their location will have to opt-out. Security experts believe that it would have been more appropriate for the default setting to be inactive, so that users who are interested in the Facebook Places service will have to opt-in, and we agree with the experts on this one. However, Facebook claims that your location will not be shared unless you check-in, but users should have been given the chance to choose whether they want the service or not.
The major concern for Facebook users is the possibility of their location falling in the wrong hands. Stalking is a common occurrence on Facebook; location information means that the stalker will know where you are currently. Not only that, he will also know where you have been e.g. where you shop, the club you go to, etc, information that easily enable him create a more detailed profile about you than have previously been possible.
However it is not only stalkers that you should worry about, it is about your location falling into wrong hands. Imagine burglars using your location on Facebook Places to know that you are out of town and using the opportunity to rob your house while you are away. Note that Facebook applications can also access your location if you allow them to. So Facebook Places has a number of benefits, but there are a lot of privacy concerns some of which may simply be hot air, but a number of them are real. Hence you need to think carefully before leaving your Facebook privacy settings untouched. Here is an article about customising your Facebook settings for Facebook Places.
Read announcement of Facebook Places at the Facebook blog.