Facebook places got some scrutiny when it was launched last month, as one would expect. The Guardian’s had a look at “Facebook’s latest scheme“, as they put it, and it’s not too impressed – “The biggest threat to Facebook, Twitter and all the other stellar names in the social-media industry does not come from some ruthlessly hungry startup or a foreign dictatorship. No, it comes from the social-media industry itself. At least, that seems to be the most plausible interpretation of Facebook’s latest scheme, unveiled this week.” (back in August, this was.)
Zack Whittaker of zdnet is less ambivalent in his blog post on August 17. “Facebook, especially in light of the numerous serious privacy issues over the last year, will now be entrusted by you, the user, to your location data. Really? This apparantly (sic) is not a joke.”
ReadWriteWeb refuse to get hysterical. “Facebook launched its mobile location feature last week, called Places, and just as the company deserves – there was intense scrutiny of the new feature’s privacy settings. It turns out that you can check-in friends as being at the same location you are in. That’s a new and perhaps counter-intuitive bit of social engineering. People have been calling it a bug, a privacy violation, a crime against human decency. I don’t think any of this criticism is going to hold up for long. Places has some privacy problems, but checking in other people isn’t one of them.”
The biggest problem they identify is more of an annoyance with some privacy implications. – “The real problems faced by Places include the boring Place listings and the unclear protocol for challenging a place’s title. If my family’s house gets submitted to Facebook Places as “Dusty’s Rehab Center for Retired Alcoholic Circus Clowns” – there’s no clear way to have that removed. More likely it could be tagged “Marshall Kirkpatrick’s house” and that’s not something I’d be happy about either.”
I’m not going to post any more of the hundreds of blogposts and tech-journalist takes on this – they’re easy to find online if you’re interested – but I did want to sample a representation from some of the vaguely respected sources. I’d like to subscribe to the measured, calm, take-a-deep-breath response that Marshall from RWW suggests, although I’m not entirely convinced that this isn’t a worrying development. One ‘truth’ that I do feel deep in the pit o’ me vitals, though, is that the thin edge of the wedge snuck in a while ago, and worrying developments are sure to come our way in the not-too-distant future.