Last night I stayed up to watch the Facebook Event in Paulo Alto, CA, to find out about the new Places product. Places is a new geo-location or check-in utility that enable users on mobile phones to notify friends of their current location that is initially going to be available in the US but soon to come to the UK.
Its all very exciting as I love a new product especially if its free, and for grown ups setting up meetings and such like it could prove useful.
However as usual I’m worried about our kids, safety and privacy. Facebook say its okay as Places will be set to “friends only” by default which is okay for people who know how to use Facebook privacy correctly but many of our kids don’t. They add people as friends that they don’t know, its a numbers game – some of them having hundreds maybe thousands of “friends”. Of course all of these friends look like kids on their profiles but if they are unknown to the user they obviously could be anyone, its happened before.
Someone mentioned that there may be a mass unfriending of parents on Facebook as kids think that now parents can see what they are up to, where they are and who they are with, but they can apparently block us from seeing this, just don’t tell them 🙂
Yes, users now can put in their status where they are and what they are doing to get their friends together like “Going to the park who wants to come?” but that doesn’t give a firm location with a map as I understand as Places will.
The thing that surprised me most was the representation of Gowalla and Foursquare at the event – it seems that they and others are partners in this venture. This all happened on the same day that Foursquare refined its privacy settings, that says to me that they are trying to prove that Foursquare is safer and easier to use than Places.
There was a brilliant question asked at the event, something like if they were having a party and people started checking-in his home as a venue would he be able to get rid of it. The answer seemed very vague and unacceptable to me, he was told that it would have to be a popular venue for users to even be able to check in there but if enough users requested it would appear as a venue, and he would have to flag it or report it and if it got enough flags it would be taken down.
I don’t get it!
So my home could be labelled as a venue? I don’t like that. Didn’t Facebook state that residential homes wouldn’t be available as a check in? Besides how would you notice that was going on if you were having a party? The other thing is that people can tag you when they are checking in somewhere, so you might think that no one knows where you are when they’ve tagged you and it appears on their Facebook wall. Same as photo’s though you can stop block yourself from being tagged, not that the photo one works very well.
This product also brings back the fears about house break ins, if your privacy settings aren’t in place. Check-in somewhere and you or someone else is telling everyone there’s no one at home, please go and burgle it.
As usual with Facebook this is an Opt out utility not an Opt in, so if you don’t want it remember to Opt out. There is a disable option in Applications.
Will you be using Places?