Thursday, August 19, 2010

Privacy or no privacy.... its your choice believe it or not.

Today Facebook has released its newest feature, Facebook Places. This is quite similar to FourSquare, if you have ever used that service. The idea is that when you are out and about, you "check in" at the location where you are. There are locations for millions of places and if you can't find it, you add it and check in. You can earn badges for checking in so many times and for many other things. Its just another way to be social on the net.

Facebook's newest feature is quite like that except it is integrated into the whole of Facebook itself. In other words, when you check in, your friends will all know. As with anything that Facebook does though, the privacy 'activists' that are out there are already screaming about this add-on because, as stated in the Facebook blog posting on the topic, "Your friends will be able to share your check-ins with the applications they use to help create new social experiences with location."

Now, for all of you who are privacy concerned out there, here is what the above article states if you don't like your friends sharing your location information: "If you don't want to share your check-ins with your friends' applications, just uncheck the new box in your Privacy Settings under 'Applications and Websites.'"

Yes, Facebook has had just a few issues with privacy concerns in the past and some of them, especially in the beginning, were completely justified. But they implemented it so that each user is responsible for the information that gets shared. You can control this under your Privacy Settings in your Facebook account. The rule of thumb that everyone should remember though is, "If you don't want it known, don't put it out there!". Remember, putting it on the Internet once means it lives forever.

I remember an article from a couple months ago stating that if you went to a link in your front page called "Phonebook", that it would list all of the phone numbers for all of your friends that it could find them for. This was raised as a "huge privacy issue" by the activists and articles were written. I am not defending Facebook, but those numbers were pulled from the profile "Info" page for each of your friends. If they provided it, then it was displayed. Facebook was simply using readily availble info to show you your friends phone info. I heard it worked on all users, but didn't investigate that far. I notice now though that the link is gone from Facebook. This again goes to "Don't share it if you don't want it known".

People have to be wary of what they share on the net. Unfortunately, too many people aren't. I am quite skeptical and generally thoroughly investigate what I am entering and why and how it will be used before giving it. You have too. There are too many unscrupulous people out there.

Ok, off my soap box for now. Go forth and be "social", but be careful with your information. Its yours and is your sole responsibility if it gets out because YOU provided it.

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