Social Check-Ins: Facebook Places Launched

Yesterday Facebook launched its latest social network feature, Facebook Places, which is set to compliment the growing market of location-based social check-in apps. Currently Foursquare, Gowalla, Booyah and Yelp are able to push data into Places. So, in a way, Facebook is working with (rather than in competition against) the check-in giants to best take advantage of the massive number of people on the social network.

We’ll take a quick peek at Facebook Places and how you can protect your privacy with the new Facebook feature.

So what is it?

Facebook Places is the same idea as other popular check-in apps such as Foursquare and Gowalla. Places enables you to share where you are and connect with friends close by. Your friends can even tag you in their check-ins, a possible privacy concern for some people.

Places

Places

A few friends of mine are diligent Foursquare users and while they’re out and about I find it fun to see the places they’re exploring and visiting; not because I like knowing where they are, but because I enjoy discovering the new places they’re also discovering.

Going a step further, I really like the idea of being able to “find” other friends also at your same location. It really brings a new aspect to socializing.

When will it be available?

Places is set to be rolled out within the United States over the next few days. I haven’t found a set launch date for international users. As soon as we know, we’ll let you know too so be sure to subscribe to RSS or follow us on Twitter. You might also follow The Facebook Blog.

The Facebook Blog

The Facebook Blog

Places for Businesses

Business owners can claim their “places”, which will turn it into a Facebook Page, enabling them to post updates for those that like the page. Business owners will have to verify their claim with some form of official document. There’s obviously lots of advantages for businesses and advertisers to do this, which you can read more about at Facebook’s Places for Advertisers FAQ.

How do I protect my privacy?

The first thing that came to mind when I heard Places was launched was, how is this going to affect my privacy? Sharing your location isn’t exactly a bad thing and can actually be a lot of fun. On the other hand, your friends can tag you when they check into places, which could let others know you’re somewhere you didn’t want them to know about. I’m sure you can see the potential privacy issues here.

Fortunately you can protect your privacy with a few new privacy settings. By default the new Places settings are enabled, so if you want to lock down your privacy you’ll need to follow these few simple steps.

Log Into Facebook, Navigate to Privacy Settings

To get started, log into Facebook and navigate to your privacy settings page, then click Customize settings.

Customize Settings

Customize Settings

Things I share

Within the Things I share section you’ll find two settings to control the privacy for the places you check in and whether or not to include you in “People Here Now” after you’ve checked in. The “People Here Now” feature basically let’s others know you’re at the location you’ve checked into via the locations page.

Checkin Settings

Checkin Settings

I’ve set mine to be more restrictive.

Things others share

If you don’t want others to be able to tag you in their check-ins, navigate to the Things others share section and select Disable for the Friends can check me into Places option.

Friends Checkin

Friends Checkin

Application Sharing

Lastly, your location can be shared via Facebook applications. If you’d like to restrict this as well, head back to your main Privacy Settings page and select Edit your settings under the Applications and Websites section (lower left corner).

Application Privacy

Application Privacy

Next, click Edit Settings for the Info accessible through your friends. You’ll be able to deselect the Places I’ve Visited from the list of information accessible through your friends.

Info Through Friends

Info Through Friends

Final Thoughts

Social check-in apps and services never really caught my attention as I’m not a big fan of sharing my location and places I visit with everyone. I tried Foursquare but it really never caught on with me. Occasionally, however, I have noticed I’m willing to tweet about a few places I’m visiting so maybe Facebook Places is something I should at least try.

I’m very pleased to see that Facebook included easy privacy settings to disable places sharing. I’m not fond of Facebook’s privacy history so this was a positive step in my opinion.

Will you be using Facebook Places? What do you think of it?

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