CUT THE BULL: Facebook Places threatens personal privacy

by Staff

Facebook stalking has seriously been updated to Peeping Tom status. While one of the major functions of Facebook is its seemingly unlimited potential to share personal information, the border of common decency was crossed without the possibility of amnesty when Facebook unveiled its newest program: Facebook Places.

According to Tech Crunch, Facebook Places was launched on Aug. 18 and has three purposes: “(To) help you share where you are. Help you see who’s around you. And see what’s going on nearby.” Essentially, this application lets you know your friends’ physical location and vice versa. Thanks to previously established foursquare and Gowalla, one would think the GPS mobile location niche is so been there, done that. While that’s true, the release of Places makes headlines because the mothership of social networking recognizes the legitimacy of mobile-location tracking and has an audience of 500 million people now with the ability to use it.

If ever the “dislike button” was needed for a Facebook feature, your friends and your friends of friends should tag Places. In fact, I’d put both thumbs down.

According to the Facebook FAQs page, here is how Places works: You access it via your iPhone or Click “check in” using your current location and select the “place” you are. You can write a description of your experience if desired and you can “tag friends with you” at the current place if your friends’ privacy settings allow it.

Places threatens privacy and security rights, ironically diminishes social interaction and doesn’t have the consumers’ best interest.

When privacy and security camps are aligned next to each other, they are usually in opposition. Take the Transportation Security Administration’s screening process. Privacy advocates say the excessive patting down of passengers is invasive and simply provides an illusion of safety. Security fans shout back it is a necessary evil and believe, myself included, a full body scan is the best option.

Concerning Places, it is a double whammy. Both privacy and security are compromised. When friends, family and employers know where you are, they also know where you are not.

Dan Olds from Gabriel Consulting Group asks, “Would you want a wide number of people to know that there’s no one home at your house? If you play hooky from work, or go to the beach rather than your mom’s birthday party, you might want to steer clear of using Places at least for those days.”

When you are doing something, the task, time and place are sacred. Not to preach to the choir, but living in the moment is important. Even though Places is an optional feature, the fact that it is offered infringes on this concept of alone time and thus privacy and self-security.

While you would think Places increases social information sharing, it actually decreases it. No longer do you have to call or text where you are, what you’re doing, or at what time you’re doing something. You already know Jimmy was at 4.0 Deli on Montezuma Road 30 minutes ago with Jack and Jill, and after reading his description, that he liked “The Godfather” sandwich, no mayo. The, “Hey what’s up homie?” text is no longer needed.

Facebook’s best interests aren’t yours. First, the privacy settings are anything but clear and that causes suspicions. As Reuters reports, “One of the criticisms of Places is that opting out isn’t as simple as clicking on a “no thanks’ kind of button,” and features like “Friends can check me in to Places” are by default enabled, requiring you to disable them. Second, Facebook’s business model requires it to constantly provide more information-sharing applications. Facebook is like WikiLeaks in this matter, more information out there is better. Third, as Newsweek points out, Facebook users are products themselves sold to advertisers. Places FAQs even has a “How does Facebook Places benefit advertisers?” section.

While Places is optional, it is an excessive feature not needed in today’s ADD culture. If I really need to know where you are, I’ll text, call, e-mail, Skype or tweet you. Sometimes not everything needs to be shared with the world.

8212;Andrew Slutzky is a media studies senior.

8212;The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Daily Aztec. Visit to post comments or send a letter response to with your full name, year and major.