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Facebook Adds Location Feature, Subtracts Privacy (Again)

May 10th, 2010 05:38 admin Leave a comment Go to comments

facebook-webSo you already spend all your time on Facebook—that’s not enough for the social networking giant. Soon, it will want to know where you spend all your time (in the real world).

Over the weekend, TechCrunch identified a glitch in Facebook’s mobile site that allowed them to see a space for a new feature called “places” being built in the code.

Based on the code, this is what it seems that Facebook is about to launch: A mobile version of the site using the HTML5 location component to grab your location information from your phone. Once it does that, you’re taken to this new Places area of Facebook that presumably will have a list of venues around you. From here you can click a button to check-in. Yes, there will be check-ins [TechCrunch].

It appears that Facebook plans to jump into the world of being a location-based service in the vein of Foursquare or Gowalla. But rather than launching its own service to crush the two smaller companies, Facebook may consider buying up Foursquare. Rumors to that effect circulated this weekend because in addition to the code leak, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg paid a visit to Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley.

The possibilities are tantalizing, especially because we think if Foursquare really wants to sell, Facebook would be its best buyer. We’re also pretty sure Facebook has interest in Foursquare at the right price. Remember, a few months ago there were some rumors that Facebook kicked the tires on Foursquare rival Gowalla [San Francisco Chronicle].

Evaluating the pros and cons of all this, PC World notes that Facebook’s embrace of location-based service will open up the idea to a lot of people who wouldn’t seek out one of the smaller companies, and could expand some of the advantages—like getting discounts for visiting a store and checking in a certain number of times—to many more businesses than currently participate. The drawbacks? Privacy, of course.

Facebook has taken some public beating about privacy for its public statements (Zuckerberg is alleged to have said, “People don’t really want privacy, anyway“), its new features that force more connectivity on users, and its gaffes like a bug last week that rendered some private chats viewable to other users. And then there’s the fact that navigating Facebook’s maze of security section to get the privacy setting you want requires a tour guide and a reservoir of patience. For your convenience, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has posted the evolution (or erosion) of Facebook’s privacy standards over the last five years.

Even Congress has taken note of the expanding Facebook:

It is also facing trouble on Capitol Hill. Last month, lawmakers called on the company to stop automatically sharing user information with third-party websites and to streamline its privacy policy. Led by Chuck Schumer, a New York Democratic senator, they said that Facebook users should have to opt-in to data-sharing arrangements, rather than being forced to opt-out if they do not wish to participate [Financial Times].

Image: flickr / benstein

Source: Facebook Adds Location Feature, Subtracts Privacy (Again)

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