Facebook Going Places or a Privacy Risk?

August 31st, 2010
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by Lauren Shapiro*

FacebookPlaces1As if we aren’t already super connected with social media, smart phones and web cams – Facebook now wants to know, “Where are you right now?” And if you want everyone to know, then visit Facebook’s Places application and share. According to Facebook, “Places is a Facebook feature that allows you to see where your friends are and share your location in the real world. When you use places, you’ll be able to see if any of your friends are currently checked in nearby and connect with them easily.”  With this new feature, you can find out which of your friends are in or around your location – creating opportunities for impromptu meetings with friends.

The “Places” application is creating a bridge between online and face to face communication (F2F). This is refreshing when F2F interpersonal communication seems to be lacking with the surging reliance on computer mediated communication. The new application encourages users to find each other and participate in dialogue outside of the Facebook community. Perhaps there is life outside of Facebook after all!

While Dennis Crowley, creator of location-based social media site Foursquare, has called Facebook Places “boring” and “unexciting,” the real issue surrounding the newest Facebook application is one of privacy (a concern Facebook is likely used to debating by now). All users must configure their own privacy settings for this application. According to Reuters, “Facebook says all Places check-ins are visible only to friends by default unless your master privacy control is set to ‘Everyone.’” However, it is important to note that there is no way to completely opt out of the Places app. Reuters notes, “If you use Places to check yourself in, then third-party check –ins [ability for your friends to check in your location] are turned on automatically unless you adjust your privacy settings.”

But the other key issue goes back to the days when Mom would leave you home alone and say, “If anyone comes to the door, don’t tell them that I’m not at home.” With Places users are parading the fact that, not only are they not at home, but they are having a nice dinner, in this city, on this street and probably won’t be home for awhile… giving someone ample opportunity to find them or their home.

The debate will continue as users begin to delve further into Places. Do you think Places is a privacy risk or another way to connect with contacts? How do you plan to incorporate Places into your public relations or marketing mix? Please share your thoughts with me and the readers of BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas.

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*Bio: Soon after graduating from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, in 2006 with a B.A. in communication and a B.S. in business/marketing, I joined the BurrellesLuce client services team. In 2008, I completed my master’s degree in corporate and organizational communications and now serve as Director of Client Services. I am passionate about researching and understanding the role of email in shaping relationships from a client relation/service standpoint as well as how miscommunication occurs within email, which was the topic of my thesis. Through my posts on Fresh Ideas, I hope to educate and stimulate thoughtful discussions about corporate communications and client relations, further my own knowledge on this subject area, as well as continue to hone my skills as a communicator. Twitter: @_LaurenShapiro_ LinkedIn: laurenrshapiro Facebook: BurrellesLuce

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