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Facebook adds 'Places' check-in feature

Facebook is following in the footsteps of younger social-networking sites by adding a "Places" feature that lets you share your real-world location with online friends.

As company representatives explained at an event at Facebook's Palo Alto, Calif., offices and wrote in a blog post, you'll be able to tap a "Check In" button to announce your presence at a physical location to your Facebook friends. Your check-in will then appear on that location's "place page," on your profile and in your friend's News Feeds.

Your pals, in turn, can tag you as being with them, after which you can remove that tag--similar to the way Facebook's photo-tagging feature operates.

Using this new feature requires using a version of Facebook's iPhone application, due out Wednesday night, or logging into its smartphone site on a phone that supports GPS auto-location. On the site, you should see a "Places" tab on its home page--though I had to wait a couple of hours to see it appear on an iPhone and an Android phone.


Facebook's Places lacks the competitive aspects of the check-in features at such smaller sites as Foursquare and Yelp; you don't collect virtual badges or become the "mayor" or "duke" of an establishment by showing up there enough. Your only reward is seeing where your friends are, where you've been, and what earlier updates were posted from that spot.

(As always, the same disclaimers apply: Post Co. Chairman and chief executive Donald E. Graham sits on Facebook's board of directors, while the newspaper and an increasing number of Post staffers, myself included, use Facebook for marketing purposes.)

If, however, you're already in the habit of checking into restaurants or bars on Foursquare or Yelp--or the competing services Gowalla and Booyah--you can connect those actions more directly to your Facebook identity through the new Places feature. (Representatives of those companies appeared at Facebook's event to talk about their collaboration but did not discuss the odds of their employers getting wiped off the map by Places.) A post on Facebook's developers blog explains how other sites and applications can hook into Places, and what sort of limits they'll face in doing so.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and other company officials emphasized the privacy controls built into Places. The default settings for any check-ins are to have them visible only to your Facebook friends--a more restrictive default than most of the site's standard privacy settings. There are no automatic check-ins, and on an iPhone I had to tap through two permissions dialogs to use Places. Finally, your friends can't start tagging you as being present until you authorize that activity.

But--just like in Foursquare--the ability of users to create new locations means you risk having your home become a hot spot. If enough people check into a location, it will become visible to all Facebook users nearby, at which point you can only request that your abode be removed from the database.

I don't have a problem with the check-in concept in general; I enjoy Foursquare, although I'm awfully picky about who I'll accept as a friend on that site. But the vastly wider scope of Facebook makes me a little leery of Places.

On one hand, it's not always that hard to see which Facebook friends are near you, considering the verbosity of so many Facebookers. (Not to mention that, as a new dad, my most frequent nightspot is the grocery store.) On the other hand, using Places wisely requires further customization of Facebook's privacy settings--unless you never accept friend requests from casual acquaintances, it would be foolish to broadcast your whereabouts to everybody you know on Facebook.

The big unknown is how many Facebook users will adopt this and make it part of their routine on the site. At the moment, I only see three check-ins, two from Facebook employees (I've smudged out their names and photos in the screen grab above). That's where I have to ask you for your take on Places: Could it be a useful complement to Facebook's service, or does it represent yet another privacy pothole to steer around?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  August 18, 2010; 10:50 PM ET
Categories:  Location awareness , Privacy , Social media  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: No, Wired, the Web is not 'dead'
Next: Video: Facebook Places privacy settings


I would be worried that Facebook and its ad companies could track me at all times. Is Facebook really concerned about safety?

Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, and inwardly are ravening wolves.

Posted by: simplygeorge | August 19, 2010 12:33 AM | Report abuse

Facebook is absurd. Once people realize how they have shafted themselves, Facebook will disappear as fast as the pet rock.

Posted by: ChrisW1958 | August 19, 2010 1:16 AM | Report abuse

Could someone help me get an overactive ego?

I can't believe other people are so fascinated by me and my whereabouts that they to want to know about everything I do and where I am!

Oh the pain of having no overactive ego and being confident and happy without it!!

Posted by: joeblotnik49 | August 19, 2010 7:50 AM | Report abuse

We are told not to put 'we are on vacation' on our FB site, so crooks will not know when we are not at home. Now they can track us.
I am glad I have no cell phone.

Posted by: mickey1956 | August 19, 2010 8:26 AM | Report abuse

I can't for the life of me understand how people could allow their lives to be so wrapped around these small electronic dog collars. We share one cell phone and whoever's away from home or on a road trip usually takes it - sometimes not. We basically don't use the darn thing and don't really see the need to talk to each other every ten minutes. The world is passing by while you're staring down a rabbit hole all day. Ditch the cell phone and watch the road instead. You're driving like a drunk.

Posted by: Byrd3 | August 19, 2010 8:32 AM | Report abuse

People - wake up! You are giving away all of your privacy rights without realizing what private companies and governments are capable of. The Gestapo would love this.

Posted by: dbtinc | August 19, 2010 8:51 AM | Report abuse

wow, lots of haters here. I love Foursquare and will try the new FB geo-locator. In no way does it tell people "everywhere I go." What nonsense.
I control this, check in when and where I want. A few times a week, if that. Hardly "everywhere" I go.
If you don't like it, don't do it. But it is silly to misrepresent the core basis of something and then indignantly oppose your incorrect stance.
BTW, if you truly think someone is tracking your "every move" you might contact the authorities. As for me, the fact that I let my friends know I have arrived at a gallery or cafe hardly makes me vulnerable to crime. It does help me meet up with people who are nearby, and is a fun way to share my news with my list of friends (which is blind to search on FB or the internet.)

Posted by: FloridaChick | August 19, 2010 8:57 AM | Report abuse

Most people here sound like crazy conspiracy theorists. Get a grip, people!

I hardly use facebook anymore, but I certainly can't pretend it's a fad that will disappear like the 'pet rock'. That would be a ludicrous notion.

Fact is, some people DO want their friends knowing everything about them. Some people DO like to overshare. As long as those people exist, facebook can provide the options to meet that narcissism. I don't see a problem with it. It's just not for me.

But for the privacy nuts out there... just go find a cave to live in. You'll be much happier.

Posted by: funkball | August 19, 2010 9:03 AM | Report abuse

I recall a news story a couple months ago (maybe a bit more) about a woman whose house was burglarized by a Facebook "friend" after the woman made some post about being away from the house. It turned out the FB "friend" was a long-lost friend from the woman's school days, but that the woman had never interacted in person with the "friend" since school days (their only interaction was on FB) and didn't know the "friend" had become someone of a nefarious character.

Since very few of us know ALL of our FB friends personally and intimately, I think we should be very careful about advertising when we're not at home.

Posted by: rah1962 | August 19, 2010 9:10 AM | Report abuse
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Posted by: hhfgjeytejytketyeuytry | August 19, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

I found this site that sort of mocks the whole FourSquare thing -

Funny enough idea, wonder if it will catch on?

Posted by: yetanotherpassword | August 19, 2010 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Oooooooo, so exciting. What will they think of next. Especially when the government grabs the facebook code to track you.

And you wonder why we are falling behind economically, educationally and culturally?
The Apple-toy culture rolls on and on.

When does the reverse function come out where your facebook, twitter brain friends can find you without you knowing it?

Posted by: wesatch | August 19, 2010 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Read about how government money is being used in Missouri to fund broadband Internet schemes:

Posted by: HitEleven | August 19, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

@FloridaChick, what kind of empty lives do these friends of yours have that they need to know you have arrived here or there? Do you spend your days roaming the streets aimlessly hoping to pick up the scent of your friends nearby? Have you thought your friends may just want to be left alone? Don't worry, a husband and a few kids later and you will find it as pointless as everyone.

Posted by: RickJohnson621 | August 19, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Doesn't seem to work on my droid phone. No addition of "Places" tab on my mobile page, though I have GPS activated.

Posted by: jlm101514 | August 19, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

No one is required to use Places, just like they don't have to log in via Blackberry to say where they are. Its an option -- that is all. Its only a violation of privacy if you let it be.

Posted by: dcombs001 | August 19, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

@RickJohnson621 - your comment has been reported. Perhaps your views would be better expressed without a personal attack, or derision.

Posted by: FloridaChick | August 19, 2010 8:16 PM | Report abuse

The privacy concerns about this feature are very real. It wouldn't be correct to analyse Facebook Places based on user experiences of location-based social networking sites like Foursquare, Gowalla, etc. The sheer scale and reach of Facebook will put Places at a totally different plane. Squatting on established business locations could emerge as a major irritant once the Places service scales up in the US and is rolled out abroad. For now, Facebook users who need time to understand the feature before joining in should visit their privacy settings and personalise the selections for Places which have all been enabled by the overreachers at Facebook.

Posted by: georgythomas | August 20, 2010 3:05 AM | Report abuse

@FloridaChick, if you are offended by what I wrote you really should not be on the Internet because it gets worse. I never meant to offend you. I was just amused and still am by how teenagers and twenty somethings feel invincible. Whenever people point out privacy issues members of these groups are always the first to say it is no big deal.

Posted by: RickJohnson621 | August 24, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

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