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Facebook Places – Don’t Let Others Geo-Tag You, Protect Your Location Information

For the unaware, Facebook has recently rolled out a feature called “Places.” Places is very similar to another website/service called FourSquare, which allows users to “check-in” at locations (businesses, homes, parks, etc.) in real life. When a user “checks in,” this information is broadcast to the service – either to friends or the whole world.  Why do people do this?

It’s very gamer-oriented. People check in and achieve higher “ranks,” which enables them to have a sort of virtual bragging rights.  However, Foursquare users get some additional benefits (the assumption here is that Facebook is going to implement the same sort of thing as well), from their site:

  • Mayor Specials: unlocked only by the Mayor of your venue. Who’s the Mayor? It’s your single most loyal customer! (the user who has checked in the most in the last 60 days)
    (“Foursquare has deemed you the Mayor? Enjoy a free order of french fries!”)
  • Check-in Specials: unlocked when a user checks in to your venue a certain number of times.
    (“Foursquare says you’ve been here 10 times? That’s a free drink for you!”)
  • Frequency-based Specials: are unlocked every X check-ins.
    (“Foursquare users get 20% off any entree every 5th check-in!”)
  • Wildcard Specials: always unlocked, but your staff has to verify some extra conditions before awarding the Special.
    (“Show us your foursquare Swarm badge and get a free drink!”)
  • And more to come!

Regardless of whether or not you want to use or enjoy this type of service is irrelevant. I wanted to highlight two things about Facebook Places:

  • It’s turned on by default
  • Other users can “tag” you without your permission

This strikes me as a bad idea and pretty invasive of one’s privacy. How to turn it off? Watch the below video:

Also be sure to disable this function for applications your friends might be using. Or course, this is under a completely different section of your privacy settings. Click the “Applications and Settings” link and  go to the “Info accessible through your friends” section. Click “Edit Settings.” Anything checked is available to Facebook apps that your friends are using. The last checkbox is “Places I’ve visited,” so uncheck that if you don’t want any apps your friends might be using to grab your location information as well.

You can also find a step-by-step guide at Gizmodo, which lists a couple reasons you might not want to let others geo-tag you:

  • You are at the bar when you are supposed to be at your girlfriend’s crappy art show. Your chat with your friend Jane, who checks into the bar and tags you: “At this awesome bar, just talked to [Your name here] about his Star Wars memorabilia collection!” Your girlfriend sees this on Jane’s wall, walks over to the bar and dumps you on the spot.
  • You are having an affair with your wife’s sister. Your wife’s sister checks into her home and says “Having awesome sex with [Your name here]“. Your wife sees this on her sister’s wall and divorces you. (Also, a robber you’re friends with steals your Star Wars memorabilia collection because he knows you’re out having the affair.)

So lawyers (and clients) who happen to be Facebook users might want to go into their settings and make some adjustments.

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About Keith Lee

I'm the founder and editor of Associate's Mind. I like to write, talk, and think about law, professional development, technology, and whatever else floats my boat. I practice law in Birmingham, AL.
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