The much anticipated launch of Facebook’s geo-location rival to Foursquare finally came to fruition this week. So, what exactly is Facebook Places and how does it work? Facebook places brings location-based features to social networking using gps enabled computers and devices. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, summed it up pretty well in the press conference by stating that Facebook Places is designed to: “Help you share where you are, help you find where your friends are, and discover new places around you.”
So, how can Facebook Places enhance your online and offline life? Although similar in functionality to Foursquare and Gowalla, Facebook Places adds an additional feature. Not only can you “check-in” to certain places, but Facebook Places can also recommend “places” that could be relevant to you. For example, say you check in to a shopping center, Facebook Places could recommend a restaurant in the area based on your profile information or pages you have “liked.”
Another important element of Facebook Places is its integration with photo tagging. Although this isn’t welcome by everyone, it does provide the functionality for you to tag friends that are with you, so everyone doesn’t haven’t to check-in for themselves.
Facebook released a short video that briefly shows how “Places” can enhance the lives of users now and many years into the future. One example given by Facebook’s VP of Product Management is of a person visiting a beach and discovering that their parents had their first kiss at that exact location. The goal of Facebook Places is to intertwine our photos, stories and check-ins into the real world fabric of our daily lives.
Everything about “Places” isn’t warm and fuzzy. Privacy advocates are already screaming foul about its implementation and potential misuse. Imagine a stalker or psychopath having real-time data about your exact location. Not only could you be tracked down to your existing location, but someone could see your check-in, realize you are out and about and burglarize your home or lie in wait for your return. Now more than ever, it is imperative that you make sure everyone on your “friends” list is indeed a true friend.
By default, your check-ins are set to “friends only.” If you want to be totally off the grid in regard to Facebook Places, then follow the steps below:
Click in the following order – Account -> Privacy Settings -> Customize Settings
Scroll down to “Places I check in to” and select “Only Me”
Uncheck the box next to: Include me in “People Here Now” after I check in
Scroll down to the category: “Things others share” and disable the option – “Friends can check me in to Places”
Lastly, Go Back to Account -> Privacy Settings
Click “Edit your settings” under Applications & Websites (located in the bottom, left corner
Click “Edit Settings” tab located to the right of “Info accessible through your friends”
Uncheck “Places I check in to”
There is little doubt that “Facebook Places” can enrich the lives of the 500+ million member Facebook community worldwide. However, users would be foolhardy to blindly embrace this technology without realizing the consequences of its misuse.