Facebook launches ‘Places’ location-enabled service

Facebook, the largest social network in the world with more than half a billion users, has launched a location-enabled service element that lets smartphone users publicise their whereabouts through the site. Users can also tag friends who are with them, and locate other friends that may be nearby. The service chimes with many of the location-based service concepts touted within the mobile industry when LBS first rose to prominence a decade or more ago.

The service is only available in the US to begin with, and only to iPhone users who will need to download an updated version of the Facebook iPhone application in order to access the new service. Facebook said it will look to offer the service in more countries and on more platforms soon.

Privacy has been one of biggest negative issues surrounding Facebook and its user base. The prospect of third parties publicising a user’s location, regardless of whether they have ‘friend’ status, is one that will no doubt raise further privacy concerns.

In a blog post, Michael Sharon, Facebook’s product manager for Places, made a bid to preempt any such concerns users might have about being tagged when arriving, or ‘checking in’ at a particular venue or location.

“With Places, you are in control of what you share and the people you share with. You choose whether or not to share your location when you check in at a place. When you check in, you can tag friends who are with you but only if their settings allow it. When you are tagged, you are always notified.

Only your friends can see when you visit or are tagged at a place, unless you have specifically set your master privacy control to “Everyone.” You also have the choice to set more restrictive customized settings.

When a friend tags you through Places, you will receive a notification on Facebook and on your mobile device. The first time this happens, you’ll be given the choice to allow your friends to check you in to places.”

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