Facebook 'Places' Set To Be a 'Big Brother' Nightmare - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Facebook 'Places' Set To Be a 'Big Brother' Nightmare

MSNBC.COM - I hope you have nothing but good, trustworthy friends. If you don't, they might tell the world you are in some pretty crazy, or even disturbing, places, thanks to Facebook's new "Places" tool.

An angry "friend", for example, can broadcast to everyone (including your boss) that you are in a coffee shop, museum or airport -- even if you are sitting in your cubicle working. Even if you haven't agreed to use Facebook's location service. And even if you aren't logged in to Facebook.

The new Places tool, which is integrated into the standard Facebook mobile application, was released last week with much fanfare and some hand-wringing about its privacy implications. For the most part, however, Places offers users lot of control over when they tell others where they are. Users must actively check-in -- as opposed to being automatically checked in -- as they move around.

But there's an exception: By default, friends can "check you in" whenever they want, and wherever they happen to be. While checked-in friends don't appear in the Places tool without their approval, the check-ins are announced to the world on the friend's wall through status updates. Further, those updates are controlled by your friend's privacy policies, not yours.

In other words, Facebook's tool makes violating your friends' privacy easy.

"I think it's quite Orwellian. We have literally become each others' Big Brothers," said Alessandro Acquisti, a privacy expert at Carnegie Mellon University.

There is a way to turn this feature off (instructions below). And checked-in friends receive notice that they've been "tagged" as present in a place, and have the opportunity to remove the tag. By then, however, the damage could be done.

Last year, a Web site named "PleaseRobMe.com" created a stir when it poked fun at location-disclosure Web sites like Foursquare.com as creating opportunities for would-be home burglars by making it easy to determine when users were not home. But at least Foursquare users decide for themselves when they will reveal where they are.

Now, if you are my friend, Facebook lets me tell my friends -- and with some tweaks, everyone -- that you are with me, wherever I am. 

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