New location 'feature' expected, but can Facebook be trusted?

Facebook is expected to introduce Foursquare-like geo-location features to the social network. But with Facebook's track record with privacy, can the site be trusted with this very personal data?
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

All Things Digital report that Facebook has been sending out invitations to select media outlets inviting them to a mysterious press conference later today (Wednesday 18th).

The new feature is expected to be a direct competitor to the popular geo-location check-in application Foursquare which has been in the works for some time. It wasn't too long ago that the social network considered buying up Foursquare which never made it through. So, in true modern day competitive style, Facebook decided to make its own.

An API will be opened up to allow third-party developers to create check-in applications for a range of devices and platforms to enable others to capitalise upon this brand new feature.

Facebook, especially in light of the numerous serious privacy issues over the last year, will now be entrusted by you, the user, to your location data. Really? This apparantly is not a joke.


Geo-location has been a gimick over the last few years, with mobile devices becoming equipped with GPS technology and the sat-nav software which has enabled users to find where they are and where to go. Flipping it round though, some bright spark reversed the concept of GPS to enable location based features like local shops, bars, and landmarks. Since then, the 'Foursquare revolution' has taken a community and social spirit.

But looking through a random selection of my Twitter followers, which opened up location based features this time last year, opens an insight into the darker side of knowing exactly where someone is at any one time.

To post my home address and postcode on the web is dangerous enough as it is. To have my phone which constantly kicks out my exact location down to a square metre is terrifying. Granted, I'm not a celebrity nor a major public figure, but I've had plenty of death threats over the last couple of years and frankly, I take the privacy of my personal information very seriously.

And now for a social network which has already had serious flaws in its privacy policies, exploits and holes where data can be leaked or be made public, and a CEO which takes user data in a blasé fashion by calling users "dumb" for trusting him, I am beyond apprehensive.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has documented the changes in Facebook's privacy policies since 2005, where originally your data remained as yours and eroded away to the point where not only everything you submitted became theirs, but even your uploaded content would not be deleted from their servers.

Even after the major overhaul of the site's privacy settings, many argued that the new settings intended to share more of the user's data with everybody and was heavily criticised by the Canadian government and a Norwegian consumer protection agency.

If I could cut Facebook out of my life without the risk of social exclusion, I would. Personally this is yet another feature which could be exploited and taken advantage of - more likely to be in Facebook's gain in some way, and nothing good can come from this.

The company has a repugnant track record with user data, information and privacy. Need I say more?

Would you trust Facebook with your geo-location data?

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