Facebook’s Places adds to privacy concerns

It was inevitable that Facebook’s new Places application would reignite the debate over privacy. As we wrote last week, Places allows Facebook members to “check in” at various locations and “tag” friends to let people know who else is there. The concerns center around whether the member’s friends have given their permission to be tagged or whether it can happen without their consent.  

At the launch announcement last week, Facebook executives clearly demonstrated that they have learned from past mistakes and tackled the privacy concerns head on. The question is whether their privacy safeguards go far enough.

Blogger Michael Zimmerman reports that while Facebook may have done a better job of addressing privacy issues than before, there are still shortcomings. If members check friends into a location, their name will appear in the members news feed, even if they didn’t give explicit permission to be included.

A Facebook spokesperson points out that this is no different from the situation now, where you don’t need permission from friends to post, for example, that you saw them at the mall. However, a post generated using Places presumably has a little more weight to it than just a regular news update.

Meanwhile, Facebook has posted an instructional video showing how Places works and how you can adjust your privacy settings to either completely remove yourself from the application or adjust it so only certain friends can see you. But be warned, it’s not that easy to follow.

And that’s the real problem. The bigger Facebook gets and the more services it rolls out, the more complicated it becomes. Surveys suggest that most Facebook users either don’t have time or the expertise to constantly adjust their settings to keep up with the latest changes. All this leads to a loss of control and a feeling that every time you add a friend you are increasingly exposed. That’s not what social networking was supposed to be about.

Are you concerned about a loss of privacy in Facebook? Have you adjusted your settings for the Places application? Share your thoughts with The Online Mom!   

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