I’ve been trying to get to grips with Facebook Places over the last week or so, despite it not being rolled out beyond the US at the moment.
As with most Facebook functionality the default option is that you fully opt-in to the service, which will allow you to use GPS to share your location. There are a few of these location-based services duking it out at the moment – Foursquare, Gowalla – but these have you opted out of sharing your data as default, unlike the Facebook approach. And let’s not forget that Facebook is by far the bigger network and therefore any changes to privacy settings is affecting far more people, most of whom are not uber-savvy early adopters.
I’ve noticed lots of people in my Facebook network posting instructions of how to ‘switch off’ Facebook places. The step-by-step they suggested led you to untick two options in the Notifications tab. This struck me as being only part of the process if you really want to opt-out entirely.
An email from a friend along the same lines led me to dial up my interest and have a proper look at Facebook Places.
Turning off the options on the Notification tab only stops Facebook from notifying you when you or a friend in your network is tagged with the Places system. Your friends, applications and applications used by your friends will still be able to use your location and share this information. Clearly if you have concerns about having your location shared this is the bigger problem – in fact you’d probably want to be notified, especially if you’ve tried to opt-out.
And how do you opt out? Well, there are some good instructions in this Mashable article – check the What About Privacy? section.
So, what are the things to remember right now? Well, firstly that Places hasn’t rolled out to the UK yet. Secondly, like Fourquare and Gowalla it is intended to be used from a Smartphone. Thirdly, switching off the notifications does just that – you need to change your custom settings to stop yourself being tagged with locations.
What Facebook Places means for businesses and (in my case) non-profit organisation Pages remains to be seen – alongside all the other changes Facebook plans for this area of the network.