Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Facebook's new location feature: useful or creepy?


Facebook yesterday announced it is jumping into location-based social networking. I know the whole concept sounds absolutely crazy to a lot of people ("Why should let my phone's GPS broadcast my exact location? So I can help robbers and stalkers and perverts find me, of course!). But in the tech world, this is a move everybody saw coming. Smaller networks like Foursquare and Gowalla have been growing like weeds as the ever-expanding hordes of smartphone-lovers use them to tell their friends where they are and what they're doing. Restaurants and retail shops in Charlotte and elsewhere have taken notice of the advertising potential, putting out special discounts for those who most frequently "check-in" on a service like Foursquare -- thus implicitly telegraphing the awesomeness of said restaurant or shop to all their friends.

So, it was just a matter of time before Facebook joined the game. And, perhaps chastened by previous blow-ups over privacy concerns, Facebook has taken pains not to force anybody into sharing their locations. You'll have to opt into it, rather than have it happen automatically. And when you "check-in," by default, only your friends see it, not the general public. The app for iPhone went out last night. Apps for touchscreen Blackberrys and Android-based phones will be available later, though you can access the function now through those phones' Web browsers at http://touch.facebook.com.

I probably won't jump into it right away. I've always been a little squeamish about location-sharing. Seems I'd like it a lot more if I were in my 20s and partying every other night. Plus, I, like many of you, am not sure I trust the motivations of ever-ambitious Facebook. (Read this smart CNET piece raising intriguing macro-analytic questions about what Facebook might be up to). Still, this, as everyone keeps saying, appears to be the future of the Web: mobile, location-based, real-time. Like it or not, we'll all have to deal with it.

What do you think? Are you planning to use Facebook Places? Or does it weird you out?

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes, creepy. I can't see any reason to broadcast my location. I could see where this would be useful for work groups or businesses with people moving around town. Otherwise, no way.

barkomomma said...

Ha! Like the government doesn't know where everyone is every second of every day!

Wait! I gotta adjust my tin-foil hat.

There! Can't see me now!!!

Anonymous said...

Creepy. Unless you are Jason Bourne, not needed! These companies are preying on the fact that as a group, most Americans are dummies. File under: invasion of privacy, 1984, etc.

Linnea said...

Creepy tendencies aside, it also smacks of narcissism. I just don't think it's that interesting to my Facebook friends that I'm at Harris-Teeter, for example. It's kind of like Tweeting one's breakfast.

Anonymous said...

Creepy, would never have facebook. Unless I'm looking to cheat on my spouse.

Anonymous said...

This country has gone through the looking glass.

People arrange meetings in private places with strangers they met in a chat room, and publish the most intimate details of their life, including their constantly updated current location on the Internet, but won't get on an airplane or enter a theme park unless everyone is thoroughly searched first.

War is "peace", government tracking of everyone is "protecting out freedom", and the people who ran up the massive national debt are claiming they are the answer to the current administration's massive national debt.

...and morons believe them.


I'm glad I am old. "1984" is coming like a freight train. It's funny; when Orwell wrote that novel we thought it was fiction. It turns out it was prophecy.

Anonymous said...

facebook/foursquare/etc is making it easier for the sex offenders out there to do their jobs.

Anonymous said...

Chill people. You have to opt in and then only "friends" can see it so if you don't want it tracking your movements then don't opt in. Personally I don't see the need for it as if I want to find anyone all I have to do is text or call them to see where they are. It is very rare I would happen to run into someone out or even care. This seems much more important for businesses (like bars and restaurants) that could see who is nearby (assuming they are "friends" with the business) and then send them targeted messages.

Overall no big deal. And if you you didn't know the government and others could already track you by just the fact your cell phone is on you are pretty ignorant on technology.

Anonymous said...

It not about whether or not you "opt in" or if you realize that "the man" can already track you, it is about setting a standard. And who does this feature target? The youth, who think it is normal to have all of their "friends" know their location. 20 years ago this would be considered insane. 18 months from now, this will be considered just as normal as Sunday afternoon apple pie. Keep heading, slow and steady, toward the cliff...nothing to see here.

Anonymous said...

CREEPY.
What I'm doing, where I am, what I'm buying or what I am about to eat at whatever restaurant is my business.

If you care, you need to come up for air from all this facebook/twitter/foursquare and so on crap.

A "mayor" of Harris Teeter? Come on! Or any establishment for that matter.

REALLY? Does that add to your cool factor?

Anonymous said...

Wrong with regard to opting in. Check your privacy settings. They've opted you in already to allow friends to tag you which then would post your location because a "friend" tagged you there. There are two spots to make sure are disabled to opt out.

Anonymous said...

To the teenage mind @11:57. No, we damn well will NOT CHILL. This is disturbing as living hell. Most kids on this thing friend everybody, whether they really know them or not. So, there is no defense saying 'only friends see your location'. Many people have been robbed, assaulted, stalked, and harrassed thanks to 'friends' only having access to certain things. Give me a damn break.

Anonymous said...

These grown men posting their location all over facebook have a real problem. They are the creepy ones that truly lack something in their real lives. There's no way in hell I would have people knowing my location, let alone knowing any personal information over something like facebook in the first place. Truly sad state of affairs with these facebook addicts.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I know people using the foursquare tracking thing and it is very CREEPY and scary. They used to act like real grown ups, but now it seems like they are acting like teenie boppers.

Anonymous said...

This foolish 'defense' that these small minded facebook people are using by saying the government can already 'track' us is ridiculous. Fine, let them track me, if they need to. I don't worry about that half as much as me volunteering my information and every move over something as dangerous as Facebook to everybody you can think of. How stupid can you get?

Anonymous said...

@anon 1:59, I agree with anon 11:57. You should really chill.

Anonymous said...

That's because it's you who said it in the first place. Maybe you should get ready for BACK TO SCHOOL time and stay off the internet.

Anonymous said...

I am going to start posting my every location and whereabouts all over facebook so hopefully someone will stalk me down and beat some living sense into my childish acting self.

Anonymous said...

sad truth is; it is NOT JUST teenagers doing this foolish stuff. Tracking and posting whereabouts is done by a great deal of so called "ADULTS".
Grow up.

Eric Frazier said...

Anonymous at 1:17 p.m. brings up an issue people should indeed be aware of when it comes to the new feature. While you're not automatically opted into the location-sharing feature in general, there is this specific wrinkle where Facebook has indeed opted you into allowing your friends to give your location by tagging you. Find a quick overview, along with step-by-step directions on closing that privacy gap, here: http://www.businessinsider.com/facebook-places-privacy-guide-2010-8

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
sad truth is; it is NOT JUST teenagers doing this foolish stuff. Tracking and posting whereabouts is done by a great deal of so called "ADULTS".
Grow up."

Why don't you grow up? That's hilarious. The 'adults' doing the crap are the scariest ones because they should know better.

Anonymous said...

There are going to be SERIOUS problems that come from this type of insanity. No one should be allowed to track your whereabouts. If you let them or offer it up, then you are asking for it. Just wait and see.

Anonymous said...

Great for stalkers and peeping toms.

Anonymous said...

Well, I know a few adults in their 40s, men, who post their every move and location for everyone to see. How pitiful. How sad. How scary!

Only young people who have no responsibility or knowledge of consequences for their actions do such foolish things .........or so we thought!

Anonymous said...

It sort of paints a sad picture of modern civilization in how easy it is for companies like Facebook and their partners to make a buck off of some people's desperate desire to have others perceive them as cool based on what they do.... and now the next level will be based on where they go.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Frazier: As with other similar articles, I find your statement "Like it or not, we'll all have to deal with it" to be completely irresponsible. No, we will not ALL have to deal with anything. Especially since there are more people than you think that not only are not on Facebook, but find it dangerous and harmful.

So, please remember to take all people into consideration. We don't have to deal with anything we don't want to. The Facebook addicts who put up their every private piece of information and think it's ok to tell people everything about you and where you are, have no idea of what problems they are inviting on themselves. Then - like it or not - that's something they may have no choice but to 'deal with'.

Anonymous said...

So, are y'all going to see The Social Network when it comes out?

Anonymous said...

Why see that? Who cares? Ah yes, the teenagers! Great, but no thanks.