You may have heard about about Facebook’s newest endeavor – Facebook Places. Along with this comes the inevitable hubbub over Facebook changing privacy defaults, who can see your information, etc. Considering Facebook’s history, this concern is certainly justifiable. In this case, however, there is really no cause for alarm.
First, what exactly is Facebook Places? Simply put, it’s an application for smart phones (I think it’s currently only for the iPhone) that lets you “check in” to different places. Why would you do that? Well, the Facebook blog has an entry on the whole thing but it’s basically a way for you to let your friends know where you are in the off chance that someone else is there too, or you simply want people to know in order to feed your egostic and their voyeuristic ways. But I digress….
The concern comes by tossing in a little misinformation with some already-on-edge doubt about Facebook’s privacy policies and you have a recipe for hastily forwarded e-mails. The main gist of the concerns I’ve read is that anyone can now see where you are logged in, complete with address and map. Are you logged in at home? All your friends know where you are. Logged in at the library? Better hope your friends aren’t the loud, partying kind since they know where to find you and could show up at your bookshelf any minute. Or perhaps that devious friend of yours has been waiting to break into your house while you’re away. Now they know when to strike!
All of this is, of course, entirely false, tongue firmly planted in cheek. As mentioned before, this application is only for smart phones and only for those people who actively choose to “check in” to various places. If you don’t update via phone, don’t worry about it. If you do update by phone, but choose not to use the application, don’t worry about it. Actually, I do need to add that someone else can tag you at a certain place but there’s really nothing you can do about that. Except maybe ask not to be tagged.
One other thing to mention is that usually in the forwarded e-mails or Facebook statuses, there are directions to “opt out” of this terrible violation of privacy. The directions, while technically true, only give half the steps. If you don’t want to be notified when someone tags you at a place or comments on your visit to a place, do the following: go to Account, Account Settings, Notifications, scroll to Places (near the bottom) and uncheck the two boxes. Be sure to click Save. But remember, this simply stops you from being notified via e-mail when someone tags you at a place. This does not change who sees where you “check in” to, in the event you choose to participate in Places. The default setting for this is “Friends Only” but if you want to change this or double check, go to Account, Privacy Settings, click on Customize Settings. Near the bottom, you can change the “Places I check in to” to whomever you want to see your places.
And that’s all for this edition of Stop the Press!! Join us next week as we look at whether or not to go ballistic over a certain thing being proposed in NY. (JUST KIDDING!! There’s no way I’m going near that discussion. Even I have my limits.)