Facebook's new feature how to enjoy it or disable it! (contains two articles).

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Facebook Places: Overview & Analysis
By ADRIANNE JEFFRIES of ReadWriteWeb, August 19, 2010

Facebook Places - Overview and Analysis - NYTimes.com

Facebook is integrating location data so that users can write location-specific updates, the company announced today. The new feature, Facebook Places, is already being rolled out in waves to users in the United States with international support to come, and an interface so that developers can start using location data in third-party applications is coming tomorrow.

Facebook may be moving fast, but Zuckerberg and co. are being careful to ease their 500 million users in - making nice with location pioneers Gowalla and Foursquare; emphasizing user benefits, not marketing possibilities; and sharing gooey anecdotes about how Facebook Places creates a living history of the world.

This is the Facebook you love, the company said today. The one you check every day, the one that connects you with people you haven't spoken to in a while. The Facebook that makes your life better.

What is Places?

Facebook Places are locations in the real world that users can now "check into" from their mobile devices, much like Foursquare or Gowalla. Each location has a Places page, a stream of updates aggregated from what users post to their profiles, and a "People Here Now" section where users can see who they know who might be there.

Users can add locations that aren't in the database, powered by local business listings provider Localeze, claim establishments they own and report locations that aren't kosher (such as someone's apartment).

Places is available already to some users, using the most recent version of the Facebook application for iPhone or from touch.facebook.com in a mobile browser that supports HTML 5 and geolocation. There is already a read Application Programming Interface for developers, and write and search APIs are in the works, so expect a wave of location-savvy apps to start sprouting up immediately.

User control

The new Facebook Places is "opt-in," which in this case means Facebook assumes you want to be part of Places and share your location information with your friends, but not necessarily the whole Internet (we're working on a "How to disable Facebook Places" post now for those who aren't ready for the location revolution).

Users decide whether or not to check into a place. But they can also "tag" friends who (in theory) are with them. The first time this happens, Facebook will ask you if you want to allow your friends to check in on your behalf. Say yes, and the tagged check-in will post to your profile. Say no, and the tag will only show up on your friends' pages. You can change your settings to disallow tagging entirely.

Baby steps

Facebook has introduced this feature in a compelling way to mainstream users who are learning and loving the social web, and it seems destined to be a raging hit.

A lot of attractive possibilities open up when users share location data.

There are the badges and the passport stamps - the fun of "life is a game and I just leveled up" exemplified by Foursquare and Gowalla.

There are the social advantages of knowing your friends are at the same concert.

There are the productivity enhancers like to-do lists that remind you that you need to buy milk as you walk by the grocery store.

Now add the potential for better maps, better news gathering, more granular police work and more ways to organize data on the Web.

On the other side you have more efficient advertising, a trove of intelligence that could be hacked or subpoenaed, and an easy path for some of the Web's cliques of overly like-minded people to bring that insularity into the real world.

But most users will see the feature in its initial manifestations - advertise the fact that you saw Lady Gaga last night, or discover that a new food cart has opened near your house, or see who else is at the bar - and click yes, Facebook, opt me in.

Copyright 2010 ReadWriteWeb. All Rights Reserved.

ReadWriteWeb is an independent technology blog.


How To Disable Facebook Places
By MIKE MELANSON of ReadWriteWeb, August 19, 2010

How To Disable Facebook Places - NYTimes.com

Facebook Places, the new location check-in feature that will begin rolling out to users across the U.S. today, was introduced last night. To our surprise, the new feature was set to "friends only" by default, but two words came up that we recall from the last time the company had a big product release: "opt out".

Here's how to opt out.

Facebook Places is a new feature on the iPhone Facebook app and touch website that will allow users to check in to "places" - whether it's the park, the library or the local watering hole.

Before the event introducing Places was even over, we had a new email from the American Civil Liberties Union waiting in our inbox, telling us that Facebook had "failed to build in some other important privacy safeguards".

Unlike other location services, Facebook Places will allow friends to check you in to places. While Facebook will give you the ability to authorize the check-in, the ACLU points out that "'no' isn't one of the easy options". The only option, aside from "Yes", is "Not Now", which means Facebook is going to ask you each and every time someone wants to check you in. While we're fine with this (and actually much appreciate it), we know it isn't for everyone, so here's how to tweak your newly available Facebook Places privacy settings.

There are three privacy settings available for Facebook Places that can help you fine tune who you want to share check-ins with, whether or not you want to be included on the "Here Now" list, and whether or not Friends should be able to check you in at all. The ACLU gives a basic how-to that we'll summarize (with some tweaks) here:

Sharing Places with Friends (Or Not)

Go to your privacy settings page and select "customize settings."

To adjust who you share check-ins with, use the dropdown next to "Places I check in". (We recommend "Friends Only").
To turn of sharing of places entirely, select "Customize" in the dropdown list and under "These People" select "Only Me".
To adjust whether or not you're included in the "People Here Now" list, uncheck the box or leave it checked.
If you don't want Facebook to ask whether or not friends can check you in, simply select "Disable" next to the "Friends can check me in to Places" option.

Sharing with Friends' Applications? Let's Not.

Another potential issue with Facebook Places is that, by default, it is set to share your location information with applications used by friends. We may love our friends, but we're not sure we entirely trust their judgement when it comes to third-party Facebook applications, and more than anything else we recommend unchecking the box allowing this.

Go to your privacy settings page and select "edit your settings" under the "Applications and Websites" title, in the lower left corner of the screen.
Select "Edit Settings" next to "Info available through your friends."
Uncheck the "Places I've Visited" check-in box.

So Far? Pleasantly Surprised

Overall, we were pleasantly surprised with the privacy settings for this new product; the sharing of check-ins was defaulted to "Friends Only" and the system makes sure to check with you if friends decide to check you in. In the past, Facebook has leaned toward automatically sharing your information with the general public, and this time it leaned toward keeping your information within at least your network of friends. And it does offer the same granularity of control as any other feature on Facebook, allowing you to choose who you share Places information with or exclude according to friends lists and even specific users.

In the end, we recommend simply setting your privacy controls to the level you desire and not entirely disabling Facebook Places. It's the sharing of information with friend's applications that we're not so sure about and, as long as Facebook is going to ask us about friends checking us in, we're okay with it.

Copyright 2010 ReadWriteWeb. All Rights Reserved.

ReadWriteWeb is an independent technology blog.