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Checking into your own home? Count me out

After all the fuss people have made over the privacy implications of Facebook's new Places feature--not to mention such earlier check-in services as Foursquare--the last thing I expected to see over the weekend was friends using that option to publish their own homes' locations.


And yet this morning, inspecting recent check-ins on the Facebook smartphone site revealed these spots:

"My House"

"Casa [Friend's last name]"

"Casa [Other friend's last name]"


"Your Mom's House"

I'm pretty sure the last item was a friend's way of poking fun at Places. But all of the others appear to be people's real-world abodes. I write "appear" because some of these people haven't added their home address to their Facebook profiles.

Having just devoted all of Sunday's Help File column--which in turn followed up on Friday's a video post--to the topic of Places privacy, I don't understand this behavior. If you want to check out a new location-based feature like Places, why not do so at a harmless spot, like your office?

(My sole Facebook check-in so far was at the Post's offices. Speaking of: You do remember that Post Co. Chairman Don Graham serves on Facebook's board of directors, and that the Post markets itself on Facebook, right?)

I also don't understand the benefit to be had from checking in at one's residence, on Facebook or anywhere else. How would that not become an annoying everyday chore? Why would that be something you'd want to remember later on? It seems a Web 2.0 equivalent of adding a repeating "lunch" event to your calendar, just without such practical results as stopping coworkers from scheduling meetings in that time slot.

True, checking in at home is the easiest way to win a mayorship on Foursquare (the NYT had a wonderful piece last week on that location-sharing service's weird competition). But isn't that the cheapest, most meaningless sort of mayorship possible?

Maybe you all can enlighten me on this point? If you've checked in at your home on Facebook, Foursquare or anywhere else, tell me why you added that as a location and what you get out of checking in there.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  August 23, 2010; 11:27 AM ET
Categories:  Location awareness , Privacy , Social media  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: PostPoints tip: Grade gadgets by one-handed usability
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Sorry, Rob. Can't help you there. I don't even post my birth date on Facebook.

Posted by: docchari | August 23, 2010 11:46 AM | Report abuse

I have the privacy on my Facebook account dialed up so that no apps run, and only friends see my posts. And I only "friend" people who are a)actual friends and b) live far enough away that I rarely see them.

Off-topic: Reading "The Victorian Internet" on my Nook and damn, that's the worst scanned and OCR'd book yet. Some words are so garbled that I have no idea what they really are, even from context. Numbers often appear as "3o,ooo" instead of "30,000", and the book is apparently heavily concerned with events in "Rritain".

Sometimes there's a "?" where the crappy OCR just gave up.

Bad OCR is a problem with some other books (but not any from but this is by far the worst.

Posted by: wiredog | August 23, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

C'mon, Rob. Who doesn't want to be Mayor of their domain?

Posted by: beetsnotbeats | August 23, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

As a former boss used to remind his staff, "Not every upgrade is an improvement." Which seems especially true for Facebook.

Posted by: 54Stratocaster | August 23, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Wow. Gotta go along with these posts. My privacy settings are turned way up also. I have friended "friends of friends" along wth friends and wonder now if I should have just friended "friends." (Sorry -- I didn't know how else to write that.)

I'm also logging on once every two weeks or so to check the news feed, instead of every 2-3 days like I did earlier in the year. I am just very suspicious of Facebook.

In that vein, Places? Hardy-har-har. I do like reading about it, and Facebook, though. I'll reconsider and maybe use it more seriously if I get a sense they are not trying to jerk me around.

Posted by: Bob_Dobbs | August 23, 2010 8:48 PM | Report abuse

Hi Rob
I think it's so that crooks can know when you're at home so they have the choice of invading your home while you are there, to attack you, or invading while you aren't there, to rob you.
Either that, or the entire "STALK ME PLEASE" of these social sites is a mindless response to the toxic concept of e-friending large numbers of total strangers.

Posted by: frankmaunderer | August 24, 2010 1:54 AM | Report abuse

Rob, I’m with you. I really can’t find any reason to be “mayor” of any “place.”
To me, this whole Places thing is both flawed and deceitful to begin with. Just as users can fictitiously tag their “friends” by checking them in at whatever location the user wants, what’s to prevent users from creating fictitious locations in the first place?Like their own house or, say, a street corner on the seedy side of town?
Taken to extremes, these kinds of new technological “features” always seem to wind up being used as tools for the unseemly types in our society.
On a more pedestrian angle, the first thing I did when Facebook’s newest version appeared on my iPhone was to opt out of it altogether. Heck, the laptop, then the cell phone, liberated me in many ways, allowing me to do work, make and receive phone calls, share e-mails and browse the Web from just about anywhere without anyone knowing where I was or what else I was doing. So, why would I welcome anything that blows my cover?
Wouldn’t it be great, rather, if we all could move around in our society, communicate, chat and share files, photos and video with friends, family and colleagues without having to give up not only our location by a whole lot of private information in the first place? zeldabB will never invade its users privacy, so predators, spammers and window peepers are kept away. It’s great for anyone on the road, at work or at home, as it offers users the ability to keep different circles of friends, family members, business associates, teammates, whatever, all with complete privacy and security. Check it out at

Posted by: zeldab | August 24, 2010 2:00 AM | Report abuse

I'm getting fed up with the Facebook intrusion into any and all things having to do with the web. It's just creepy to have one entity (especially FB) be the go-to supplier of universal log-ins, information ties between sites and people, etc. Cookies are bad enough.

I won't be a bit surprised if FB starts letting you do online banking, access your medical history, and so forth in the near future. Count me out, but I'm sure plenty of people will blindly and naively jump right on the bandwagon.

Posted by: jfw9 | August 24, 2010 6:36 AM | Report abuse

I use Yelp to check in at locally-owned restaurants that I want to see succeed (in other words, stay in business). I couldn't care less about being Mayor or Duke or whatever, I just want my local friends to know about the places I like, just as I ask them what places they like when I'm looking to try something new.

@wiredog: that, plus events like the free Montgomery County sponsored shredding event (Sept. 11, MoCo College campus), are the reason I have a Friend list for local people, some of whom I see every day; it's such an easy way to share local news. Oh, yeah, I also posted (and limited it to that local list) about the police finding a card skimmer at the Congressional Plaza ATM, in case anyone I knew had used it.

Posted by: MaxH | August 24, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Hey everyone, I'm at the office. My 4 bedroom house in Potomac with the 47 inch flatscreen in the box ready to be wall mounted is in the living room.

Please help yourself to the freshly baked cookies in the jar to the left of the sink.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | August 24, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

My understanding of the intended function of Places was to share non-repeating trips, such as letting people know you've arrived at a pre-arranged meeting place, or you're at some interesting place and you'd like to share the experience.

I don't think the point is to share that you've arrived at work again, just as most people don't tweet that they are eating dinner again.

If you want people to be able to track your every move, Google Lattitude is a better choice, because its automatic and you have better control over with whom you share the information.

Facebook places is more for "hey everyone, i'm at a bar with good beer on tap for cheap, come check it out at this location"

Posted by: jlm101514 | August 24, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Let's take your question one step further: why would I want to check in with my Facebook (or any OTHER community) about where I am, period?

And the corrollary: what collasal level of self-absorption would lead anyone to believe that the rest of us would want to KNOW their exact location at any given moment?

Just wondering...

Posted by: Orsalia | August 24, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Let's take your question one step further: why would I want to check in with my Facebook (or any OTHER community) about where I am, period?

And the corrollary: what collasal level of self-absorption would lead anyone to believe that the rest of us would want to KNOW their exact location at any given moment?

Just wondering...

Posted by: Orsalia | August 24, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and by the way, "friend" is still not a verb, no matter what Facebook says.

Posted by: Orsalia | August 24, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

A couple of my friends do the foursquare thing. I don't really get the appeal. Is it just the highest form of narcissism thinking that anyone else cares that they just "checked in" at Home Depot or the wine store or National Airport or whatever?

I like keeping in touch with folks via Facebook. And have had some fairly meaningful interactions there with people I have not seen in 20+ years which is fairly interesting to me. But lots of these features are real head-scratchers for me.c

Posted by: fedssocr | August 24, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

As long as I don't have to run for mayor of my own house, it's all good. Don't forget to change your privacy setting to disable your friends from being able to check you into places, unless you are ready for some good practical jokes along the lines 'at your mom's house'.

Posted by: peter44 | August 24, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Has anyone else seen the trailer for "The Social Network," the movie about Facebook? That trailer was titillating! Can't wait 'til it comes out.

Posted by: forgetthis | August 24, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

The trouble with Facebook is that they make broad changes to their security policy that has the practical effect of exposing previously private information. This happens through friend-of-friend associations etc. Their privacy functionality is somewhat arcane and not exactly intuitive to setup. We ended up hiring Eureka to lockdown our desktop computng security, including our social media applications. Facebook has massive potential as a network marketing platform, but facebook needs to better manager privacy concerns if they want to be realize their full potential. If they don't, of course, someone else will.

Posted by: Wap4 | August 26, 2010 10:26 PM | Report abuse

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