Facebook announced a geolocation feature on Wednesday evening called "Places." The feature allows users to check themselves and their friends in on the mobile application or browser. Those familiar with location-based apps like Fo
ursquare and GoWalla will be familiar with the procedure, but may be disappointed with the lack of in-game perks, such as mayorships, stickers, etc. earned in gameplay.
Upon check-in, the update will show up in the Recent Activity section on the page for that place, as well as in the friend feed. "People Here Now" is a section on the location page, which is visible only to people who are currently checked into that spot. When tagged by a friend, a member is either checked-in or updated, depending on privacy settings.
The friend check-in function in Places brings up privacy concerns, as do many new Facebook features. The first time that a friend tags someone on places, Facebook asks them to set their privacy preference. Places also has its own privacy setting for who can see these updates. Despite criticism that Places cannot be turned off covered by TechCrunch today, the settings do control sharing on Facebook, friend check-ins, and data accessible to applications.
The same coverage includes Facebook's standing on residences. A primary privacy concern for other location apps is user practice of making private residences into places to check into. Publicly broadcasting addresses and when an individual is home or not home is a poor combination for privacy and safety. Facebook addresses this issue by enabling a complaint system to flag addresses that should be removed from Places.
Third-party applications will have access to Places users and their friends if the related privacy setting is not changed from its default enabled position.
The popular check-in apps Foursquare, Gowalla and MyTown are being utilized by Places' launch. Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley predicted yesterday on VentureBeat that Places will more likely complement than compete with his app. While Foursquare is a game, Places aims to only augment functionality on the already popular Facebook platform.