Places is a new Facebook mobile application that allows members to tag their location and the location of their friends using geo-location feature of mobile phones. Facebook has started rolling out Places in the U.S. and will continue to over the next several days.
While Facebook has made great strides in simplifying privacy controls and requiring opt-in for self reporting geo-locations, members should be aware that their alleged locations can still be reported by their friends without their permission. To understand this, consider the three privacy modes.
- If you explicitly opt in, you can choose to report your geo-location to everyone, friends only, or friends of friends. This fairly accurate as it uses gps tracking to limit where you can self report. It can still be defeated by reporting your location using a web browser pointed at http://touch.facebook.com. As you can see here, I was able to self report my location as in Los Angeles when I was in fact in San Francisco. I was able to do this because the Starbucks where I was at has their ip located in Los Angeles.
- If you explicitly opt out, you must change three things and you cannot be tagged in Places.
- Change Places I check in to under Account-Privacy Settings-Customize settings to Only Me.
- Uncheck Include me in “People Here Now” after I check in.
- Disable Friends can check me in to Places under things others share.