BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU. In 2010, that could be replaced with FACEBOOK IS WATCHING YOU. Or rather, YOUR FRIENDS ON FACEBOOK ARE WATCHING YOU. You and your friends can now post where you are and share this information, if you so chose.
Facebook showed off the power of this new location feature at a launch event this week with a giant projection of a U.S. map showing where people were checking in just moments after Places launched. But it was one of the scariest things I’ve seen.
Facebook only showed people’s first names, but their databases know your last names and so much more about you. Our location information is voluntarily given by you or your friends and the information is kept private… well maybe. Your friends can check you in without you knowing it until after the fact.
Places is actually pretty great — potentially, but we must acknowledge the friend tagging thing is troubling to a lot of people. I also wondered how long it would be until the big Facebook location backlash, hey I think it’s started.
I expect we will learn over time how many users allow friends to tag you, turn Places off, or stick to the default limbo land, where most users are now. Sure, some users are bound to be confused and their intentions won’t match their settings, resulting in some unhappy users. How long will it take for all of Facebook’s more than 500 million users to figure it out?
But, I want to focus on users who opt-in to allow tagging. Whether they are using location services to provide the “missing link between social networks and the real world” or because of peer pressure, do they realize or care they have just given up one last piece of their privacy? And that loss was initiated by themselves or their friends, people they trust.
Is privacy already really, really dead?
Everything we do, everything we buy, everywhere we go is tracked and sitting in a database somewhere. Our location via our phone, or our car GPS. Our credit card transactions. Everything.
But, in the actions I cited, the loss of privacy is mostly a side effect. It’s our choice to buy something, but the capturing of the credit card data is a side effect we have to endure. Using Places, the point is to lose some of your privacy, the quality or condition of being secluded from the presence or view of others by voluntarily handing over your location information.
We’re all voluntarily signing away our privacy. Check your settings!”
I know many users will love Places and what it can do. They won’t care about the loss of privacy. Some of us, including me, still value the tiny amount of privacy we still have. We don’t want to be a dot appearing on Facebook’s live map. So, we’ll choose to opt-out for now.