Even if you never use
Facebook's geo-tagging feature, be aware: thanks to a new Facebook
feature, your "friends'' can now post a map of where you are without
Not comfortable with having the world know
where you are at a given moment? Don't panic. A change of privacy
settings can block geo-tagging.
But first, you need to know how
it works. The newly released feature, called Facebook Places, uses your
cellphone's GPS to let you ``check in'' to a nearby establishment and
broadcast where you are to your Facebook connections. (In order to
``check in,'' the person doing the tagging must be using Facebook on a
cellphone, but anyone can see the information.)
For example, at work I can ``check in'' to The Miami Herald. My
profile then says I'm at The Herald, and it shows a map and description
of the company, along with other friends who have been here.
Your friends can also do this on your behalf. Facebook Places lets you
``Tag Friends With You'' -- so I can go in and mark off a ton of
co-workers (even ones who are not actually in the building), and it
shows up on all their profiles as being here.
But ... it's a
big netiquette ``no'' to assume others want their location posted to
Facebook (or any other social networking site.) If you're out with
friends and want to tag them, you need to first ask if no one minds.
Even though Facebook's new feature can be turned off, you can't assume
everyone is savvy enough to have done that.
If you are queasy about having your whereabouts telegraphed, it's easy to block people from tagging you.
In Facebook, click Account on the far right, and go to Privacy
Settings. In the area under Sharing on Facebook, click the link at the
bottom of the list that says Customize Settings. There you can see
settings related to Facebook Places, including disabling friends from
checking in on your behalf.
If your tweens or teens use
Facebook, be aware that they can now use their phone to broadcast
exactly when and where they are, which can be dangerous if they don't
use privacy settings. There's even a way to create a ``check in'' for
your home -- something I strongly discourage, no matter what your age.
I've spoken to several parents with children much younger than 13 on
Facebook, and the children simply lie about their age in the profile.
Parents should include Facebook Places in conversations about online
safety and sharing information with strangers.
warnings, the service has some fun benefits. The instant I walk in, I
can quickly let my friends know of a great band playing at a restaurant
I'm at, or a store with a sale going on.
If this location
feature sounds familiar, that's because it's not new. Third-party
applications like Foursquare and Gowalla have been posting this type of
information on Facebook for awhile now -- but now that it's a feature
built into the Facebook application and mobile website, expect people to
use this more frequently.