Facebook Places – privacy concerns
There has been a fair bit of “concern” in the media now that Facebook have launched their new Places feature in the UK. Some of these concerns relate to privacy, some escalate that to safety. “Facebook has gone too far” they cry, “now everyone knows where you are”. Hmm.
I would suggest that Places hasn’t really changed anything at all. The risks associated with notifying internet users of your location haven’t worsened. As social media becomes more and more mobile and media rich it’s not at all uncommon for a person’s location to be deduced from the content they produce.
Facebook wall updates along the lines of “Enjoying a meal at Prezzo with the girlfriend” have been commonplace for years. Yep, you’re out, and your house is empty.
Twitter is significantly more concerning in my view. A geotagged Twitpic around the home? That’s where you live. Tweeting that you’re about to enjoy a week-long holiday abroad? Bingo.
So here’s the thing. Facebook’s Places hasn’t made anything any worse. Facebook’s privacy controls ensure (by default) that only your Facebook friends will see your Places updates. If you’ve got any sense you’ll keep it that way, and you’ll do the same for all the other content you push to that site, including photos and wall posts.
It’s all too easy to complain. Facebook helps me stay in touch with people who have moved away. Facebook’s Places will help me feel more a part of their lives, and its ‘nearby’ feature might just help me catch up face-to-face more often with those more local friends. There are of course risks with publishing your movements on the internet, but we’ve got controls to minimise that risk should we choose to use it.