Facebook unveiled the new Places feature late yesterday and once again there is criticism for their lack of concern for users’ privacy. While the privacy controls for the new geolocating feature, which is only currently available in certain areas of the US, are not as dicey as the spring privacy overhaul, there are some features that don’t bode well for the social network.
Users can check-in to local establishments using their smart phones (currently the iPhone is the only device compatible with Places) to show others where they are, to see where friends in the area have recently checked-in and to see who was last at their current location. It seems Facebook attempted to learn from their privacy mistakes by setting the check-in default visibility to “Friends Only” so your current location isn’t broadcast over all of Facebook—unless of course you’ve set your master privacy control to “Everyone.”
On the surface it seems Facebook Places operates just like any other check-in application like Foursquare or Gowalla. But what sets it apart, for better or worse, is the ability to tag others. One person checking in to a local restaurant can tag all of the members of his group. The fact that someone else can broadcast where you are without your knowledge or consent doesn’t sit well with the ACLU. Furthermore, they find fault with the privacy controls stating “you are only given a ‘not now’ option (aka ask me again later). ‘No’ isn’t one of the easy options.”