Facebook Places – Are You Aware?

A bonus post from me today but one that I feel is very important for the reasons I’m about to go into.

At the weekend, a friend came over to my house. He decided to ‘check-in’ to my house using Facebook places and invite me. Where’s the harm in that right? Well Facebook Places will geo-locate your smart phone device and show a map of where you are to all your friends. He had told over 1000 people on his Facebook profile where I lived. You’re hopefully starting to see where I’m going with this. If people know where I live it’s not the end of the world but if people are going round checking in to their friends houses & their own houses regularly then this concerns me. A lot of data is being built up about where people are and are not.

Facebook has a prolific younger audience and Facebook Places is nice and shiny to them – they want to play with it and rather than using it for the commercial benefits it might have, they are using it to check-in to homes a lot. How many parents out there don’t realise that their house’s whereabouts is being flagged up to potentially thousands of people online? What about those parties that were gatecrashed years ago – how much easier will that be now?

I’m an avid user of Foursquare (another Geo-Location tool) and have been for a year or so. The difference with this tool is that Foursquare was used by an early adopter audience which probably had a slightly more mature demographic to it’s user base who might think through the ramifications of checking in to their own and friends houses. Facebook has just opened places upto 500 million people across the globe and I truly believe that we need to educate people as to it’s use. You might remember that people were talking about Foursquare and burglaries a while ago (I wrote about it here) – this, in my opinion is far more worrying.

If you have a family (especially kids) using Facebook, guide them on the use of Places and spread the word.

Now Your Thoughts

Are you using Places? Did you even know about it? Am I getting worried for no reason?

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Comments

  1. I have a similar worry Alistair. I don’t exactly want my friends to be tagging into my home when they pop over. There are certain people you share this type of information with and certain people you don’t. Not everyone connected on Facebook needs to know where I live. Saying that, I can’t see an obvious way of stopping a location being tagged by someone else. Proving that you own a location and don’t want tags being placed there if far too complicated and resource heavy for Facebook to implement, especially when ‘connecting and sharing’ is driving their operations. Geo-tagging is something that is going to increase rather than decrease so your point about educating those who pop over to your place may be the best solution.

    Whilst I agree that Places is going to encounter far more problems in its early stages than FourSquare did, the opportunities and benefits are also going to snowball.

    I will do my bit to help spread the word by retweeting this and bringing the issue up in a few conversations :-)

    • Thanks Robert – You’ve put my point more eloquently than I can with manflu (yes sympathy will be accepted:)) – it’s the not being able to stop people checking in at our homes that worries me also. I didn’t worry too much about this with Foursquare and Gowalla because I knew very few people who played them and those that did understood the risks. With Facebook, so many more don’t fully understand those risks (and potential) – I think Facebook have a duty to educate on this one…

  2. Very good point Al- I had to stop one of my lodgers from checking in when he was at home.

    Nothing may happen- but why take the risk! You could leave your house unlocked all day and nothing may happen- but no one takes that risk.

    • Absolutely Oli – and think of all the parents out there who don’t have FB accounts and don’t realise this is happening – very worrying if you ask me.

  3. Vince McConville says:

    Hi Al,

    I have always been wary of the Location based services and now that FB have joined the ranks even more so as they aren’t great with the old privacy issues!.
    I noticed one of my clients checked into her home. I now know where she lives which I’m not sure she really wanted to do.
    However on Facebook hidden away in the privacy settings is the ability to disable your friends from checking you into places which therefore should include your home.
    Its under the “things others share” bit.
    There is also a bit under applications to restrict the info about you that is accessible through your friends.
    They don’t make it easy do they!

    Cheers

    Vince

    • Thanks Vince, FB is my least used network so I’m not totally sure of the settings. Would the ones you’ve pointed out stop them from checking into your home and therefore showing where you live to their friends? This is the part that worries me a lot.

      • Hi Al,

        I don’t think you can stop someone else checking into your home (99% certain). Most things can be controlled but this can’t.

        One thing that bugs me is when some people say they are against Places and want to keep their privacy, yet through status updates tell us all where they are what they are doing anyway!

        Lots of interest shown in this issue – great job for flagging it and I’m sure a few more people are now aware as a result of your blog :-)

        Rob

      • I guess there are levels aren’t there Rob, I’m personally not one of these privacy people who is really closed about my whereabouts. If I’m out and about I don’t mind people knowing where I am – If my girlfriend and I are together we try not to let people know that openly (although I’ll admit sometimes it slips out) – that way people can’t work out we’re not at home. I guess the main worry is the people that are totally innocent in that they don’t even realise it’s going on – i.e. parents/people who don’t use the tools etc…

  4. Al

    You make a really good point here. I hadn’t considered that with Facebook places, young poeple who have less discretion will start publicising where they are.

    My 18 year old brother now checks into my parents home every day…

    Scott

    • I wonder if your parents know he is doing that mate? Have you asked? Maybe it doesn’t worry them or perhaps there is a whole market emerging to create social media policies for families ;)

  5. Hi there!
    Excellent post! I very much agree with you and am prompted me to comment as a result!

    My son is just 20 months and I believe he will grow up in a world where privacy will be a rare luxury indeed. In a way, I could also be lucky because he will probably be part of a world that will already have been living with this for some time and where children growing up here will (hopefully) be savvy on how to manage their own (and others’) privacy info. In the meantime, someone has to take responsibility for those who don’t understand the implications of what they are posting online. And it’s not just ‘youth’ either! I recently had to ‘mention’ to my step father that I’d rather he didn’t give his entire facebook community a countdown on when my family holiday to his place in Portugal commences (he tends to ‘collect’ friends and I’m not convinced on the quality of some of them, if you know what I mean! He probably also doesn’t have his profile property protected). I’m pretty sure that he will be highly dangerous, given the opportunity to be location-specific!

    Not sure how best this education is rolled out to the masses, but do hope we see it happen soon! Thanks again.

    • Thanks Liz, really appreciate you popping by and taking the time to comment. I’m sure your story will resonate with others, you’re absolutely right, it’s not just about the younger gen, it’s anyone that doesn’t quite think through the implications of use of the platforms out there.

  6. If you are into geo-location information and ‘over sharing’ these are some good website tos visit: http://pleaserobme.com/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geotagging#Dangers_of_geotagging

    • Thanks Dan – I think the key is a mature, well balanced view to using Geo Location tools so as not to put yourself or your friends at risk. After weighing those things up I think there are fantastic opportunities out there for businesses to grasp.

  7. Alex Smith says:

    Interesting article, made more impressive due to fact I’m sure it was written through piles of tissues and watery eyes! I have jumped in a bit late on this one but I think I might have something to add.

    Once upon a time I had the pleasure of working in a call centre. Don’t worry it wasn’t a horrible cold calling one! Anyway when a customer called us to order something they had to register. To do so they would give us their name and post code and we would do the rest. We did this using an electoral roll database. We would type their details in and up popped everyone with their surname in their postcode. If the customer couldn’t for some reason remember their postcode, perhaps they had just moved, we could use other details like the county etc. Our database was downloaded through what I imagine is an external subscription based system through another company. However as far as I am aware the Electoral roll is by law made available to all those registered to vote. i.e give them a name and they will give the address of anyone registered to vote with that name.

    Now I appreciate there is only voters on this list so for kids this doesnt exactly mimic FB places but it doesnt take long to perhaps look through a few FB photos, see a parent tagged, find out a surname, know an older sibling and get the info you need to find an address. What I am trying to say is that if someone really wanted information on where a person lives for malicious purposes it was still only a few clicks away before FB places.

    User responsibility is something you touched on and that is clearly the duty of the modern net user. The duty to understand what they are using and agree to it. Users have to read through those t&c’s and if they don’t then the consequences really do lay on them.

    And when it comes to parental guidance, to be honest the experienced modern users of sites like facebook is most like the kids not the parents. It’s sort of sad but it’s a bit like “Kid’s are growing up fast these days” – they have to grow up to understand how to use these systems. Yes it’s like giving a kid a loaded gun but its better they learn to use than to have it in a box under dad’s bed waiting for the day temptation takes over and something goes horribly wrong.

    • Hi Alex, Interesting comment – thanks for stopping by. I should start by saying that I certainly wasn’t writing it with teary eyes, I feel it’s important but not that much :)

      My point, it appears has been missed – I wrote a post a while ago defending foursquare in the way you are defending this post – I linked to it from this very post. That would be worth looking at. My point with FB is that kids aren’t taught this kind of stuff at school – FB places was rolled out and suddenly they had free reign to use it without any thought for the outcome – FB in my opinion should give out some basic best practice policy. My girlfriends’ parents house for example is being ‘checked into’ almost everyday by her siblings and her parent’s didn’t even know their address was being publicised to at least 1000 people. This is where I see the potential problem coming from.

      Thank you for taking the time to write your comment – it was certainly interesting to read

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