Facebook, in an effort to keep up with hot social network FourSquare, is launching a new app called “Places” that allows users to check-in at various locations “and share that information with your Facebook friends, complete with maps and comments and the Facebook thumbs-up “like” feature.”
Places is currently only available to those using Facebook for iPhone, or to those with phones that support HTML 5 and geolocation. I tried accessing Places via touch.facebook.com on my Blackberry, but I didn’t see a “Check In” button, which is just as well. I’ve never used FourSquare because I’m not interested in being The Mayor of The Children’s Place, and right now, I’m writing to you from the quiet of Central New York, and there’s no place around me to check in from for miles except my mother’s garage.
Places is an optional service, and a very confusing one at that – that is, if you want to be able to tweak the privacy controls within it. (Of course, if you want privacy, you probably shouldn’t opt in to Places, or be on Facebook, for that matter.) Nonetheless, users want to be able to control their experience, and that looks to be difficult. Here’s Facebook’s best attempt at explaining Places privacy controls.
Included in Places is a feature called “People Here Now,” which, unless you “uncheck the “Include me in ‘People Here Now’ after I check in” privacy control,” allows any Facebook member using Places to see your location – even if you’re not “friends” with that person.
So what does all of this mean for minors on Facebook?
According to the Wall Street Journal, “Minors are excluded from seeing anyone except their friends.” But will others be excluded from seeing the location of minors? I can’t find that information anywhere. If you’re concerned about your child’s privacy, it’s best to tell them not to opt in to Places, though I imagine this app will be all the rage, especially with younger users.
What I find so funny about the whole thing is Facebook’s rationale for offering the service. “The company says its users already post status messages that say things like: “at Starbucks in Harvard Square with Susan and Jeff.” Now, they can tap a new Places icon in the Facebook app on their iPhones and do this more easily, complete with a map.” None of what I’ve read so far makes Places sound easier to use than typing “at Sbux.” But I don’t like to use Facebook Mobile, anyway. If I have something I really want to put on Facebook while I’m out and about, I use Selective Tweets via text message. For example, I might Tweet, “We all spend way too much time on our phones. Has anyone seen my baby? #oops.”
On a side note, I’m really excited to see the new Facebook movie, The Social Network, to be released in October. If you’ve seen the trailer, here’s a brilliant parody done by some pals at Rated Awesome called The Twit Network, a shot-by-shot re-creation of the FB trailer, but about Twitter. So meta!
What do you think about all of this? Has technology gone too far? Or should we brace ourselves for more of this type of information overload in the future?