Facebook recently added a new service to its social network family - Facebook Places. Facebook Places is a location-based social networking tool that allows smart phone users to "check in" wherever they happen to be. That check-in will update your Facebook status with your current location/activity, and enter the news stream of your Facebook Friends. You also can see a list of other Facebook peeps who have checked in nearby.
Say you're seeing a movie at a local Fork & Screen. You whip out your trusty i/smartphone, and surf over to touch.facebook.com (if your mobile browser supports HTML 5 and geolocation). Tap the Places tab, then tap "Share Location". Select your location from the Nearby Places list. You can also tag your friends at the Place where you are. Click the "Check In" button again to share your visit. You'll then see a list of other Friends who have checked in where you are, giving you the chance to connect with (or avoid) them while you're both in the same place.
While I haven't used any location-based social networking sites, it sounds like Facebook Places is similar to sites like FourSquare and GoWalla, which use the GPS functionality in your phone to pinpoint where you are. One thing that makes Facebook Places different is that it can also act as an aggregator, so other location-based sites can "push" their location updates to your Facebook status and news stream.
I'm the first to admit this is a cool use of technology, and it goes right along with the social sharing mindset of today's technology & social media users. But as with any sort of publicly accessible information sharing, there are some things to keep in mind.
I read an interesting article about an experiment with Facebook Places: Welcome to the Hotel Facebook. The writer, Patrick Barbanes, had a Twitter friend "check in" at a restaurant, then "tag" him as also at the restaurant with him. The thing was - neither of them was actually there. The Facebook Places homepage even mentions this:
When a friend checks in and tags youIf you're already using Places, it's like you checked in yourself without having to do a thing. If you're not using Places yet, it's just like being mentioned in a status update.
Now, me? "Without you having to do a thing" makes my spidey sense tingle. I'd prefer to control when (or if) I check in anywhere, no offense to well-intentioned friends.
You have to specifically opt out in your Facebook Privacy Settings, so your Friends can't tag you at a Place. Lifehacker has a quick little how-to tutorial and video on just how to do this: How to Disable Facebook Places.
Personally I don't use any of the location sharing sites, and I have my Facebook Privacy Settings pretty much locked down. I have my Facebook "Places I Check In to" set so "Only Me" can see those posts (which I don't plan to make). I chose not to enable "Include me in 'People Here Now' after I check in" (even though I don't plan to check in anywhere). And I disabled "Friends can check me in to Places".
Rather than get too much further into the ramifications of sharing "too much" information online, I'll just point out these other reviews/articles, for your reference:
- Mashable.com: A Field Guide to Using Facebook Places
- HuffingtonPost.com: Top Five Ways to Use Facebook Places Effectively
- The Facebook Blog: Who, What, When, and Now...Where
- RedTape.MSNBC.com: Facebook Places: Be your friends' 'Big Brother?'
- CNN Tech: Facebook Places: Here's how it works
And you? What do you think of Facebook Places? Or any of the other location-based sharing sites? Harmless pasttime or TMI (Too Much Information)? Also, are there any other questions you wish I would have addressed in this post?