Facebook Places launches in UK

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Facebook Places, a location-publicising service that was released in the United States in August, has now become available to users in the United Kingdom. The service was released in Japan earlier this week. Previously, some people in the UK who use Facebook's iPhone application discovered that they were able to use the service.

This service allows individuals to publicise their location, or "check in", in a way similar to the one used by Gowalla and Foursquare. Users of Facebook Places will be able to establish if any of their Facebook "friends" are or have been in the vicinity if both decide to "check in". The service will become available to other parts of Europe "as soon as possible", stated Michael Sharon, Facebook Places' product manager.

Sharon commented: "We wanted to prepare a robust set of privacy controls. I'm really proud of what we've done with the Places privacy settings because they are unprecedented in the industry at this moment in time. We think Here Now [which shows users if other Facebookers are in the area] is a fantastic feature. It's a great way to meet new interesting people, but we also know some people wouldn't like to use the feature – they just want to share with friends or friends of friends – so we took care to turn it on for only some people. Some people explicitly let us know that they just want to share with a certain group so we changed the settings from the default for them – of course they can opt back in at a later time."

"One of the major issues is the way that Facebook have implemented his functionality," mentioned Trend Micro's Rik Ferguson. Having had a trial use of the service upon its launch yesterday, Ferguson continued: "By default, users are opted in to the ability to be tagged by their friends, they are opted in to allowing their friends' Facebook apps to access their location information, and they are opted in to allowing 'non-friends' checked-in to the same place to see their whereabouts. This is all backwards - this should be deployed on a purely opt-in basis and no information about my whereabouts should be posted without my explicit consent, every single time a post is made."